Abusive Raids, Round-Ups and Threats to Roma in Italy
10 May 2003
Fifteen municipal police, accompanied by Mr Mario Vallarosi, head of Rome's Immigration Office, entered the Via Troili Romani camp on the northern periphery of Rome to perform "routine checks" at approximately 3:00 AM on November 8, 2002, according to ERRC investigation. Via Troili is a state-run camp, authorised to house one hundred and fifty Roma in container units. As of November 2002, two hundred Roma lived in the camp. On November 10, 2002, Ms A.M., a 25-year-old Romani woman living in the camp with her husband and 3-year-old daughter, testified to the ERRC that she had awoken to loud voices, crying and lights. Ms A.M. reported that an officer opened the door to their container home that she thought had been locked and shined a bright light on her family. According to Ms A.M., her daughter jumped out of bed, screamed "monsters" and began to cry. The officer then yelled at the family to get out of bed and go outside with their documents. Ms A.M. told the ERRC that she asked the officer if her daughter could stay inside because it was very cold and raining, but the officer said she could not. The Romani inhabitants of the camp were reportedly forced to stand outside until around 7:00 AM. At this point, Ms A.M. stated, the officers told the Romani inhabitants of the camp that anyone not on the list of people registered to live in the camp would be expelled from Italy. On December 2, 2002, a representative of Rome's Immigration Office informed the ERRC that no one from the Via Troili camp had been expelled since the raid. As of March 1, 2003, the ERRC was unaware of any Roma that had been expelled since the raid.
Earlier, on November 4, 2002, the Italian national daily newspaper Il Nuovo reported that more than two hundred municipal police and military police officers (carabinieri) entered the Via Salone Romani camp on the outskirts of Rome and conducted a "check" on the camp inhabitants. On November 8, 2002, an employee of Rome's Immigration Office informed the ERRC that the raid lasted from 7:00 AM until 8:00 PM. The raid reportedly followed a meeting of the Provincial Committee of the Lazio Region, in which the Committee agreed to carry out regular checks of the Romani inhabitants of the Via Salone camp and remove Roma living illegally in the state-authorised camp, according to the Italian national daily newspaper Corriere della Sera of October 21, 2002. On October 22, 2002, the Italian national daily newspaper La Repubblica reported that the Committee also decided to dismantle illegal housing structures in the Via Salone camp, in an apparent attempt to reduce the number of inhabitants in the camp to three hundred from one thousand. Finally, the Committee decided that police surveillance would be installed at the Lunghezza railway station that passes the Via Salone camp, following recent protests against Roma on the commuter trains (for background information see:
- Roma Segregated on Public Transport in Italy ). In mid-October 2002, police raided the unauthorised Via Magliana Romani camp on the northwestern periphery of Roma, according to the testimony of Ms Liliana Baboi, a 25-year-old Romani mother of three, given to the ERRC on December 12, 2002. Ms Baboi reported that police entered the camp at 4:00 AM, loaded all the Roma living in the camp onto a bus and brought them to the police station on Via Genoa. At the station, Ms Baboi stated, the Roma were fingerprinted and photographed, after which they were held until around 2:00 AM the following evening, when they were taken to another camp and left without their possessions. Ms Baboi reportedly went back to the Via Magliana camp in the morning to retrieve her possessions and found that everything in the camp had been destroyed while the Roma were held at the police station. Ms Baboi moved to another camp on Via Salaria. According to Ms Baboi, on December 9, 10 and 11, 2002, a female social worker had been at the camp. The woman reportedly entered Ms Baboi's trailer where she lived with the two children that she had with her in Italy and said, "How can you treat your child like a dog? You must be an animal, and animals don't deserve to have babies." According to Ms Baboi, on the second day, the woman returned with a piece of paper with the words Minor's Court on it and ordered Ms Baboi to sign it. When Ms Baboi refused, the woman reportedly got angry and said "You don't have a choice. Look at what you are doing to your baby, you animal. [?] You aren't a mother." Ms Baboi told the ERRC that she was considering returning to Romania, her native country, because she "would rather starve than have her children taken from her." As of January 9, 2003, Ms Baboi had left Italy to go back to Romania because she feared having her children removed from her care.
Previously, forty police officers rounded-up Roma, principally from three Romani camps in and around Rome - Via Troili on the northern periphery, Via Salone on the southern periphery and Vicolo Savini on the southeastern periphery - led by Police Commander Antonio di Maggio, at around noon on September 26, 2002, the Italian national daily newspaper Il Nuovo of the same day reported. Mr L.C., a 30-year old Romani man who lives at the Via Salone camp, testified to the ERRC that he was sprayed with pepper while a plainclothes police pulled his 18-month-old son out of his arms. According to Mr L.C., "Two police officers approached me as I was holding my son in my arms. I didn't know that they were police, though, and they didn't say that they were until they sprayed me. One walked up beside me and the other in front of me, then the one in front grabbed my son and jerked him. I let him go so that he wouldn't be injured and then I hit the man. He immediately sprayed me with pepper in my face and told me that they were policemen. He must have already had the can in his hand because it only took a second. Then I fell and my wife came to me. The police pulled me up and put me in the van." Other Roma in the camp with whom the ERRC spoke reported incidents of police misconduct during the round-up, and several witnesses overheard one officer tell a ten-year-old Romani girl "you are a little street slut," when she asked why they wanted to detain her. A representative of the Italian non-governmental organisation ARCI, which busses Romani children from the Via Salone camp to and from the local school, informed the ERRC that on the day of the round-up, when the Romani children attending school were returned to the camp after school, "there was complete chaos. The children's mothers, who are usually there to look after the children, were not anywhere to be found. When I was informed about what had happened, I went to the police station to explain that minors were unattended at the camp because their parents were being held, but the police commander seemed uninterested." In an interview with the ERRC on September 26, 2002, following the raid, Mr di Maggio stated that the operation was planned following a court order which gave the police investigative power and the right to detain Romani beggars suspected of exploiting children for financial purposes. Mr di Maggio told the ERRC that thirty Romani minors had been sent to a local clinic to be examined for signs of "malnutrition and abuse" and that seventy Romani adults had been taken to the Rome's immigration headquarters at the police station on Via Genoa for identification. Mr di Maggio reported that all of the detained Roma were being treated well. The children reportedly face the possibility of forcible separation from their parents. Roma in the camp have reported to the ERRC that, like Ms Baboi, since the raid, they had also been visited by social workers. As of March 1, 2003, the ERRC was unaware of any Romani children who had been removed from their parent's care.
At around 9:00 AM on the same day, Ms Herminia Nistor Degeratu, a 24-year-old Romani woman, was abused by a female police officer named "E" at a police station on Via Genoa in Rome, after she and her 3-year-old son Andrea were picked up at Rome's San Pietro Train Station. Ms Degeratu testified to the ERRC that she and Andrea were waiting for a train when Officer E. asked to see her ticket and documents. Ms Degeratu stated that she did not have a ticket and she was not carrying her documents. Officer E. then grabbed her by the arm and told her that she had to go to the police station to be fingerprinted and checked to see if she had been involved in criminal activities. Ms Degeratu and Andrea were held at the police station in the train station for several hours, during which time they were not allowed to make any phone calls, until they were taken by Officer E. and a male officer to the police station on Via Genoa. When they arrived at the Via Genoa station, Officer E. accompanied Ms Degeratu and Andrea into the building. In the elevator, Ms Degeratu, who had her son in her arms, said that the doors opened and she started to walk out, but Officer E. pulled her back hard and slapped her, screaming that it was the wrong floor and accused her of trying to escape. When the doors had closed again, Officer E. reportedly slapped Ms Degeratu again. Ms Degeratu stated that she begged Officer E. not to hit her again. Ms Degeratu was then photographed and fingerprinted and sent back to the San Pietro Police Station at around 1:00 PM, where she was to wait until the computer system was fixed so they could check to see if she had a record. When she arrived back at the San Pietro station, Ms Degeratu was permitted to phone her husband, who then informed the ERRC of the incident. After being brought back to the police station on Via Genoa, Ms Degeratu and Andrea were finally released at around 6:30 PM. On October 30, 2002, Ms Degeratu told the ERRC that Andrea had been having nightmares since the incident and cried every time he saw police officers.
Abusive treatment and the repeated arbitrary detention of groups of Roma living in segregated camps in Italy by Italian authorities, seemingly on the basis of their ethnicity alone, is in violation of the Italy's obligations under international law. Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Italy has ratified, states, "Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention." Further, Article 10(1) states, "All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person."
(ARCI, Corriere della Sera, ERRC, Il Nuovo, La Repubblica)