European Commission on Racism and Intolerance Reports on Italy
18 May 2007
On 16 May 2006, the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) made public its Third Report on Italy. In its report, ECRI highlighted the failure of Italian authorities to implement recommendations it made earlier in its Second Report. ECRI's report contained extensive reference to the situation of Roma, followed by recommendations to Italian authorities, including:
"92. In its second report, ECRI [...] made recommendations to the Italian authorities aimed at improving the situation of this part of the Italian population in vital fields such as housing, issuing of personal documents, education, employment, health, administration of justice and relations with the police. ECRI notes with regret, however, that no or very little progress has been achieved since then in virtually all the fields highlighted in that report.
93. In its second report, ECRI recommended that a comprehensive policy to improve the situation of the Italian and non-Italian Roma and Sinti populations across a wide range of areas and to counter discrimination against them, be elaborated at national level. ECRI notes that there has been no progress towards the establishment of such a policy and that there is no meaningful co-ordination of or support for the action taken by the regions in these fields at the national level. Civil society organisations have, however, consistently underlined that the situation of disadvantage, marginalisation and discrimination of Roma and Sinti is such that without national co-ordination and leadership it cannot be addressed in a sustainable way.
94. In its second report, ECRI recommended that legislation in force to protect the right of historical and linguistic minorities be extended to cover Roma and Sinti. The Italian authorities have reiterated that extension of such protection is impeded by the fact that Roma and Sinti are not linked with a specific part of the Italian territory. However, they have also reported that they are considering legislation aimed at favouring the settlement of the non-sedentary Roma and Sinti populations on Italian territory – ECRI is not aware of the details of this legislation – and that inclusion of Italian Roma and Sinti in the general legislation protecting historical and linguistic minorities could subsequently be effected.
95. In its second report, ECRI noted that the Italian authorities tended to approach all issues relating to Roma and Sinti from the assumption that the members of these groups live a nomadic lifestyle. ECRI considered that it was particularly urgent to change such an approach, since it had resulted, notably, in the forcible relegation of many Roma and Sinti into camps for nomads. Civil society organisations have reported to ECRI that Roma and Sinti are still considered as nomadic populations in official policy, especially at national level. However, ECRI also notes that some progress has been made in a few regions, where, in collaboration with the communities concerned, local authorities have started to partially eliminate camps, as suggested by ECRI in its second report. By and large, however, the situation remains the same as described in ECRI's second report, with approximately one-third of Roma and Sinti, both citizens and non-citizens, living in conditions of practical segregation from the rest of society in camps for nomads, in many cases without access to the most basic facilities.
96. In its second report, ECRI urged the Italian authorities to address the Roma and Sinti's lack of documents, including Italian passports and residence permits. ECRI has continued to receive reports according to which many Roma and Sinti born in Italy or who have lived in Italy most of their lives, and their children, do not have Italian citizenship. In many cases, these persons only have short-term residence permits and in some cases no residence permits at all. ECRI has also received reports that a few hundred stateless Roma children currently live in Italy.
97. In its second report, ECRI recommended that the Italian authorities strengthen their efforts to ensure that all Roma and Sinti pupils benefit fully from compulsory schooling. The Italian authorities report that over 13 000 Roma and Sinti children are enrolled in school, although not all of them attend regularly. However, civil society organisations report that as many as 20 000 Roma children, virtually all non-citizens from the Balkans and Romania, are at present outside the compulsory school system. ECRI understands that a Protocol has been signed by the Ministry of Education with Opera Nomadi, a voluntary sector organisation, in order to address this problem. ECRI is pleased to note that the Italian authorities object to teaching Roma children in separate classes. However, it notes reports according to which decisions by non-Roma parents to move their children from schools attended by Roma children has resulted in classes in certain schools being left with Roma children only. In its second report, ECRI recommended that the Italian authorities take measures to facilitate the participation of Roma and Sinti students in further and higher education. However, it has been reported to ECRI that, in some cases, lack of residence permits has prevented Roma children willing to pursue further education from doing so."
ECRI recommended that Italian authorities "establish a comprehensive policy at national level to address the situation of marginalisation, disadvantage and discrimination of the Roma and Sinti populations"; "establish an effective co-ordinating mechanism at national level, with the participation of national and local authorities, Roma and Sinti representatives, civil society organisations and other relevant partners"; "find a suitable legal means to protect the Roma and Sinti along the lines of historical and linguistic minorities and to co-ordinate existing regional policies and efforts to overcome the barrier of non-territoriality"; "eliminat[e] camps for nomads"; "take immediate steps to address Roma and Sinti's lack of passports and residence permits"; "ensure that all Roma and Sinti children are enrolled in school and to strengthen their efforts, in collaboration with the communities concerned, to favour regular school attendance by these children"; and "take urgent action to improve the position of Roma and Sinti in other fields, including employment, health, relations with the police, administration of justice and general prejudice in society."