Anti-Romani statements saturate Italian election campaigns

15 August 2001

Italy's national elections, held May 13, 2001, and resulting in a victory for the centre-right coalition headed by Mr Silvio Berlusconi, were conducted in an explicitly anti-Romani atmosphere. Italian national newspapers, notably Corriere della Sera, la Repubblica and il Tempo,ran sensational headlines and articles, such as "Prostitutes and Nomads: Face-off DS-AN", which appeared in the national daily newspaper Corriere della Sera of March 26, 2001. ("DS" is a centre-left party, Democratici di Sinistra and "AN", the reformed fascist party, Alleanza Nazionale). This article in Corriere della Sera opened with a summary of where the main political groupings stood on the Romani issue: "For the centre-right, if they are nomads, then they need to move, otherwise they must integrate." Roma are frequently referred to as "nomads" in Italy. Another Corriere della Sera article from April 18, 2001, entitled "A Jar and a Gypsy Face," criticised "the scandalous behaviour of Gypsies who take their children onto the street to make people pity them."

Candidates also used inflammatory anti-Romani statements in an attempt to gain votes. A regional district candidate for the Alleanza Nazionale, Mr Giuseppe Consolo,was quoted in the Corriere della Sera article of March 26, as saying: "The left and radical-chic attempted to favour them [Gypsies] by giving them houses. Fortunately Storace took care of that. If they are nomads, they need to move on." The statement was a reference to the continuing problems surrounding the camp Via Gordiani, on the southern periphery of Rome, where the spending of funds allocated to build permanent housing for the 250 Roma living in complete squalor was blocked by the regional president, Mr Francesco Storace, also a candidate of the Alleanza Nazionale party (see "Snapshots from around Europe", Roma Rights 1/2001, available at Snapshots.

In the run-up to the local elections that took place throughout the country one week after the national elections, both mayoral candidates in Rome voiced opinions on the "Gypsy problem". The centre-left candidate, Mr Walter Veltroni, stated in a campaign press release, reported in Corriere della Sera on March 25, 2001, that "Nomads should not be treated with favouritism. Illegals must be treated like all others. For those who are legal, the camps seem to be providing good results." According to Corriere della Sera of March 26, 2001, the centre-right candidate, Mr Antonio Tajani, statedthat "If they [Roma] are sedentary, they must behave like Romans and send their children to school, obey the law and, if possible, buy a house." Mr Tajani's statement is particularly unfortunate in that many Roma are blocked by Italian authorities from buying or even renting property and are instead placed in "camps for nomads". The practice of segregating Roma into such camps is the subject of the ERRC Country Report Campland: Racial Segregation of Roma in Italy, available at www.errc.org

(Corriere della Sera, ERRC, il Tempo, La Republica)

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