Authorities destroy Romani housing in Italy

03 October 2000

Over the course of the spring and summer of 2000, the Casilino 700 camp, located twelve kilometers from the centre of Rome, was dismantled by authorities in Rome. This "unauthorised" camp with 1500 inhabitants was one of the largest Romani camps in western Europe. During a series of raids, officers and other municipal authorities destroyed dwellings and property belonging to Roma, and failed adequately to rehouse displaced Roma. The final dismantling of Casilino 700 took place during August and September 2000.

August 1 - At approximately 7:00 AM, about twenty municipal police arrived at Casilino 700, with three small police buses, and began selecting Roma and loading them onto the buses. According to eyewitnesses, authorities told the Roma that the raid was a "regular security check". One Romani man from Macedonia and eighteen Romanian Roma were taken to the police headquarters for immigration in Via Genoa to be fingerprinted and checked. One Romanian Romani man was taken to the detention centre at Ponte Galeria and, as of September 25, was in custody pending expulsion from Italy. As of October 9, his whereabouts were unknown to the ERRC. The others were released around 8:00 PM and left to return to the camp, some twelve kilometres away, on their own.

August 2 - At approximately 7:00 AM, municipal police arrived with three small police buses and took approximately eighteen Romanian Roma to Via Genoa to be fingerprinted and checked. Around the same time, Commander Buttarelli of the seventh district of Rome arrived with approximately twenty municipal police officers and Lieutenant Lodoni, head of the municipal police unit overseeing Casilino 700. According to eyewitnesses, police destroyed two shacks belonging to Romani families who were not present at the time, with all of the families' possessions inside. Police announced that the "Macedonian zone" of Casilino 700, home to approximately two hundred people, was slated to be dismantled on the morning of August 4. Macedonian Roma legally in Italy would be transferred to the new Tor de' Cenci camp. No public statement was available as to what would happen to those individuals not in possession of legal permission to stay in Italy. Commander Buttarelli also reportedly announced that approximately 120 Roma from Romania were to be transferred to the Via Candoni/ATAC camp. This camp had earlier been dismantled in May 2000, and should have been rebuilt by October 15, 2000. However, in the first week of October authorities told a journalist from the daily il Tempo that construction was behind schedule. As of October 9, it was not known when the new camp would open. According to eyewitnesses, Lieutenent Lodoni told a group of Roma from Romania that those who were not part of the official list for transfer should "disappear" by September 1. They were told that if they were found on Casilino 700 premises they would be removed forcibly by police. As with the Macedonian Roma, those with residence papers were to be allotted the pre-fabricated housing (known as "containers") in the new Tor de' Cenci camp. Tor de' Cenci was equipped with fifty-eight containers as of August 2. Fifty-five were reportedly intended for Romani families, one designated for police officers who would provide around-the-clock surveillance, another was designated for employees of the State Medical Service, and one would be used for children's activities. Each prefabricated shelter is approximately twenty-five square metres. Married couples without children were told that they did not have the right to a private container. Roma were told not to bring their own campers, only cars and vans.

August 26 - Two police dressed in civilian clothes, Lieutenant Lodoni and police photographers arrived in the Casilino 700 camp with two bulldozers. The authorities instructed the inhabitants of eight shacks in the Romanian area of the camp to remove their possessions from the shacks, after which police photographed the insides of the shacks. Then the Roma were told that they were "free to leave". The authorities then destroyed the eight shacks.

August 28 - Police destroyed another fifteen shacks in the same area, and in the same manner as on August 26. As of this date, approximately one hundred and fifty inhabitants had been expelled from the camp since August 26. As of October 9, some were sleeping in abandoned buildings, some at the Via Salone camp, while the whereabouts of others remained unknown. At 10:00 AM three Romanian Roma were taken to police headquarters at Via Genoa. Authorities issued them expulsion notices. As of October 9, their whereabouts were unknown to the ERRC; they are presumably in hiding.

August 29 - At about 6:15 AM police destroyed ten more shacks at Casilino 700. Lieutenant Lodoni, approximately fifteen uniformed police officers, and eight policemen in civilian clothes oversaw the operation. This time they didn't check first if possessions had been removed from the shacks. One woman, who was at a local water fountain, reportedly arrived just in time to pull her sleeping two-year-old child from his bed before her shack was knocked down. Mr Giorgio Bultianu, 61-years-old, suffered the loss of his means for survival - his two violins - when authorities destroyed his shack containing all of his possessions. Mr Bultianu learned of the loss via telephone: at the time he was in Romania preparing to get married. His fiance, still in Italy, phoned him to tell him that their shack had been completely destroyed. Mr Bultianu is a legal resident in Italy. Aside from his violins, the shack also held his doll collection, clothing, family photos and most of his and his fiance's possessions. The ten shacks torn down on the morning of August 29 brought the total number of dwellings destroyed to 33 since August 26.

August 30 - At approximately 10:00 AM, a procession of some 200 Roma, Moroccan immigrants and representatives from Italian and international non-governmental organisations arrived at the office of the Prefecture Rome, Mr Enzo Mosino, in the center of Rome, to protest the continuing destruction of homes at Casilino 700. Officials in the camp on the morning of August 30 denied that possessions had been destroyed.

August 31 - At around 6:30 AM, more than 30 armed police dressed in riot gear entered Casilino 700. Police closed off the entrances to the camp and refused entry to journalists, associations and observers. Police took approximately ten Roma originating from Romania away, reportedly to the Immigration office on Via Genoa. The authorities did not destroy any more shacks, but bulldozed the remains of previously destroyed homes into a heap. Roma whose possessions had been inside the demolished homes were not allowed to examine the remains or attempt to recover lost goods until sunset, when the police left.

At around 7:30 AM, a crowd of around 200 Roma in the camp broke open the locked gate of the camp to allow observers and activists to enter. Police reportedly reacted with verbal and physical violence, pushing people, and reportedly drew weapons as a threat against the Roma. One Romani woman fainted and had to be taken to the hospital. Auxiliary police were called in; most of the police regularly assigned to the camp who were well known to the Roma and activists working there, were not present.

September 6 - While visiting Casilino 700, Advisor for Nomad Affairs of the city of Rome Dr Luigi Lusi and Lieutenant Lodoni informed Roma without permits that they would have to leave the camp. Dr Lusi said that the final dismantling of Casilino 700 would take place on September 13, and that the situation of the Roma without permits would be resolved within the following six days. When asked by one Romani inhabitant if that meant expulsion from Italy, Dr Lusi refused to comment.

September 9 - At around 6:30 AM, approximately 40 armed police dressed in riot gear entered Casilino 700 camp and destroyed the shacks of Roma without residence permits. Some of the 250 Roma without permits, the last irregular inhabitants of the camp, left Casilino for Via Salaria on Rome's northern periphery (about 16 kilometres away) after being instructed to go there by authorities. They were met at Via Salaria by hostile local demonstrators. Police then accompanied a number of Roma from Via Salaria to a camp at Via Salone, another of Rome's outlying areas, but the authorities there were not prepared to receive the Roma. On the night of September 9, many families had to sleep in their cars.

September 10 - Members of concerned non-governmental organisations visited the camp at Via Salone. This state-authorised camp had, on that date, 850 inhabitants. The camp lacked basic infrastructure: there was no electricity, water was not sufficient, and there was no drainage system. The inhabitants complained of rats and scabies. The camp is located approximately 20 kilometers from Rome, away from any other buildings and surrounded by fields. The isolated location presents a problem for the Roma to work, buy provisions and to send their children to school. At first, Roma who moved to Via Salone from Casilino 700 slept in their cars. As of October 9, many had left the Via Salone camp and settled in a large abandoned house nearby.

September 11 - More shacks in Casilino 700 were destroyed; the only remaining inhabitants of the camp were the 350 Roma with legal permission to stay in Italy.

September 22 - In the very early morning hours, a group of five urban police entered Casilino 700 and, according to witnesses, informed inhabitants of the Macedonian area of the camp that they should stay in their shacks until the morning because there would be a "routine check". At 6:30 AM, two small police vans, twelve police officers, Lieutenant Lodoni, and Mr Serpieri of the Rome Immigration Office reportedly arrived with a list of the men they were looking for. They located five Macedonian Romani men, and, according to witnesses, told them each to "pack a small bag with their belongings." At 2:30 PM their whereabouts was unknown and the Immigration Office on Via Genoa refused to give the ERRC monitor any information regarding the detentions or possible expulsions. The five men had no immediate family in Italy and had been threatened with expulsion on various occasions, though never issued an expulsion notice. On September 26, the ERRC learned that two of the men had been expelled from Italy, two remained in detention as of that date, and one had been released from custody. As of September 25, about 250 people, all legal residents of Italy, remained in Casilino. They are awaiting transfer to the rebuilt Carrucci camp, scheduled to be completed by October 15. However, the new Carrucci camp will only accommodate 200 people, while at least 250 need a place to live.

Italian authorities have destroyed other Romani camps recently. In early August 2000, Italian police dismantled the Carrucci camp, on the outskirts of Rome. The Carucci camp had been established to accommodate temporarily Roma of Bosnian origin after the March 3, 2000, dismantling of the Tor de' Cenci "unauthorised" camp, which resulted in the expulsion of 56 Bosnian Roma to Bosnia-Herzegovina (see "Advocacy", Roma Rights 2/2000). At approximately 6:30 AM, on August 7, 2000, seven municipal police cars, three high-security cars and two state police vehicles arrived at the Carucci camp with municipal police, representatives from the City of Rome, local council member Salvatore Margerita and Counselor for Nomad Affairs of the city of Rome Dr Luigi Lusi.

As of Sunday, August 6, 2000, 138 Roma lived in the Carucci camp. On August 7, when the dismantling and preparation for transfer began, approximately fifteen Roma were taken into police custody for identification and fingerprinting. They were to be transferred to via Salone (on the opposite periphery of Rome) by the end of the day. No statement has been made as to why they were detained and why they were transferred to the via Salone camp. They were told that it was a "routine check". Of the fifteen taken into custody, three were adult females and the rest minors. Ninety-three Roma from Carucci were officially assigned housing at the new Tor de' Cenci camp and were transferred on Wednesday, August 9 and Thursday, August 10, escorted by police. Approximately fourteen Roma from the camp were not present when the police arrived on August 7. The police impounded their campers (nine in total) with their possessions inside. As of October 9, they remained impounded. Soon after impounding their campers, police transferred these Roma to the Via Salone camp. However, the residents of Via Salone chased them out of the camp. Some returned to Via Carucci and were staying with relatives and friends as of October 9, others were sleeping outside of camps. As of October 9, only five people from Carucci had actually been given housing in the Tor de' Cenci camp. Eight families, a total of forty people, remained without assigned housing, and were sleeping in their cars, vans, in the open, near the camp. The Tor de' Cenci camp, with adequate space for no more than 200 inhabitants, hosted approximately 265 as of October 9. Witnesses heard Dr Lusi, when questioned by several Roma regarding their future, respond with obscene language and suggest that they "disappear". Roma from the camp say that Dr Lusi often uses violent and abusive language when speaking with them. Abuse of Roma in Italy is the subject of a forthcoming report by the European Roma Rights Center.

(ARCI, ERRC, Il Tempo)

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