Anti-Romani action in Italy

07 November 2001

On October 15, 2001, a letter entitled "Away with nomads" appeared in the Rome section of the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. The letter was a protest against the Villa Troilli Romani settlement and blamed the presence of Roma there for an increase in purse snatching, thefts and breakins. The letter was signed by two members of an extreme right-wing party, National Alliance (Alleanza Nazionale). Previously, on September 28, 2001, more than 200 members of National Alliance marched in Rome to protest municipal support for Romani housing in the 15th district, according to local non-governmental organisations Caritas and 3 Febbraio. The National Alliance is part of the government's ruling coalition.

Police raids on Romani camps have also taken place recently in Italy. According to witness reports and the Rome-based Italian non-governmental organisation Amicizia Rom Gagc, on October 1, 2001, municipal police and local immigration authorities entered the camps Casilino 700 and 900 on the southern periphery of Rome, with four 50-passenger police buses. Witnesses reported to the ERRC that authorities ordered local Roma to board the buses. Approximately 120 Romani camp inhabitants were taken to the immigration office of the police department in Via Genova, where their identity cards were checked. They were then released on the same day. All detainees reportedly returned to the Casilino 700 and 900 camps shortly after the raid.

In another case, on September 11, 2001, at around 6 AM, five police squad cars entered the Romani camp at Arco di Travertino, on the northern periphery of Rome, and officers forced the approximately forty Romani inhabitants of the camp to leave their homes and stand in an adjacent parking lot in cold morning weather (it was reportedly around 10 degrees Celsius at the time of the raid). According to Mr Salvo de Maggio of the Rome-based Italian non-governmental organisation Capodarco, police proceeded to search the premises with dogs and metal detectors and were accompanied by the communal sanitary service and bulldozers. The search was carried out without either a search warrant or an arrest warrant being presented to any of the camp inhabitants. Mr de Maggio also reported that Ms Rafaela Milano, city council member responsible for social welfare, has denied knowledge of the search.

Camp raids are a daily reality for many Roma in Italy. On August 24, 2001, the Italian national daily newspaper La Repubblica reported that a "Blitz in Nomads' Camps" had taken place the previous day. In the Emilia-Romagna region in Navi, the Regina city administration called on local police to disperse Roma travelling in 10 campers, which were parked in an unauthorised zone. Residents and workers in the area were reported by the Bologna daily Il Resto del Carlino to be "alarmed by the presence of nomads." Witnesses told the ERRC that on August 22, 2001, five police squad cars, accompanied by fire department officials, searched the Romani camp Acqua Acetosa, on the northwest periphery of Rome, with dogs and metal detectors at sunrise.

Camp raids and random identity checks are not the only forms of discrimination faced by the Roma in Italy. On July 21, 2001, Il Manifesto reported that in early July 2001, in the Northern town of Grassobbio near Bergamo, bulldozers dug a trench around city property where Roma regularly stop, by order of the mayor, Luciano Sangaletti. The trenches were meant to keep Roma travelling through the area from stopping at the site. By way of protest, Paci Paciana, a local association, organised a "fill the trench day" and mobilised approximately 40 volunteers to refill the ditch. The mayor later reportedly commented that the city would have filled the trench, but the protesters saved it the cost and effort.

In other news from Italy, on the evening of July 8, 2001, according to La Republica of July 9, 2001, an unknown person or persons threw two bottles filled with gasoline into a Romani camp outside the northwestern town of Sassari, on the island of Sardinia. Only one bottle exploded. Of the 150 camp residents, none were injured. Police have reportedly dismissed the case as a local "prank" and do not consider it a racist attack. The situation of the Romani camps in Italy is the subject of the ERRC Country Report Campland: Racial Segregation of Roma in Italy. The report and other information on the situation of Roma in Italy are available on the ERRC Internet website at: www.errc.org.

(3 Febbraio, Amicizia Rom Gagc, Capodarco, Caritas, Corriere della Sera, ERRC, Il Manifesto, Il Resto del Carlino, La Repubblica)

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