Italian Authorities Continue To Forcibly Evict Roma Rendering Some Homeless

29 July 2004

According to the Bergamo-based newspaper L'eco di Bergamo, on April 22, 2004, approximately 30 carabinieri (military police) evicted one hundred and fifty-two Roma living in twenty-three camper vans from a parking lot on Via Rampino, which they occupied on April 18, in the northern Italian town of Covo. The newspaper re-ported that following complaints by local residents, on April 21, the Mayor notified the Romani group that they had to leave. The carabinieri arrived at the parking lot at around noon on April 22 and just after 1:00 PM, the Roma left the parking lot in a convoy headed in the direction of Bergamo, escorted by carabinieri.

Earlier, on April 15, 2004, a group of about ninety Romanian Roma, seventy of whom had applied for asylum and about twenty of whom had not, were evicted from the shacks they had been liv-ing in by the river in the northern Italian city of Turin, according to Ms Carlotta Saletti Salza, an activist working with Roma in Turin. According to Ms Saletti Salza, police destroyed the shacks in which the Roma had been living, along with all of their personal possessions. Twenty Roma without any legal papers to be in Italy were expelled following the eviction. One Romani woman was reportedly "invited" to go back to Romania because she had not legalised her stay in Italy. She did not go, but, according to Ms Saletti Salza, the authorities took away her child. The seventy Roma who had applied for asylum occupied Turin's Immigration Office for two days following the eviction. At this time, a number of vans arrived to move them to an empty school, where they were to live temporarily. Twenty-four of the Roma con-cerned, afraid to get in the vans, left the office and the remaining thirty-six people were moved to the school. After they arrived at the school, local residents protested in front of the school, so the group was moved to a temporary camp with only three large tents in a field. Ms Saletti Salza stated that the Roma who fled the Immigra-tion Office have since requested to be housed at the camp, but the Immigration Office refused. Mr Alfredo Ingino, Coordinator of Nomad Camps for the Municipality of Turin, informed the ERRC that the group, which included a number of children, had returned to the river and rebuilt their shacks. Immigration officials reportedly now visit the camp twice per day in an attempt to control the number of people living in the camp and have announced that if the camp grows at all, they will close it. The Roma have also been told that they will not likely receive asylum, according to Ms Saletti Salza. On April 27, 2004, the ERRC visited the camp, which had only three portable toilets and one small water container that was reportedly filled only once per week. There was no electricity or other source of water available. None of the Romani residents were present.

In another case, at 9:30 AM on April 1, 2004, approximately seven hundred police officers, carabinieri, traffic police, fire fighters and military officers evicted more than two hundred Romanian Roma from the building they had occupied at Via Adda 14 in Milan for two years, according to the Italian national newspaper La Repubblica, as reprinted in the Romanian national newspaper Evenimentul Zilei on April 13, 2004. Around three hundred and fifty Romanian Roma "caught" in the area had reportedly been expelled to Romania in the weeks leading up to the eviction. Mr Ernesto Rossi, an activist working on Romani issues in Milan, informed the ERRC that one hundred and eighty-five Roma from Via Adda without legal permits to be in Italy were expelled to Romania following the eviction on a charter flight. Municipal authorities moved between sixty and seventy Roma with permits of stay to a newly con-structed camp on Via Barzaghi.

On April 26, 2004, Mr Adriano Tanasie, one of the Roma evicted from Via Adda, testified to the ERRC that the group was not given formal notice of the eviction prior to its execution; they had learned of it on television in the days leading up to the eviction. To Mr Tanasie's knowledge, the authorities did not present a warrant at the time of the eviction. The authorities reportedly told the Romani inhabitants of Via Adda that if they were quiet and did not protest, nothing would happen to them. Mr Tanasie testified that everyone was brought to the police station where their documents were checked. Those with legal documents to be in Italy were released at around noon of the same day and moved to the new camp on Via Barzaghi. The evicted Roma were not permitted to take their possessions. Appliances were reportedly placed in storage, but Mr Tanasie told the ERRC that he went back to Via Adda several days later and saw workers collecting the group's belongings as if it were garbage. At the time of the ERRC visit, the Roma were living in twelve containers and three tents in Camp Via Barzaghi, surrounded by a cement wall approximately 10 feet tall topped with barbed wire, under the 24-hour surveillance of two armed police officers in civilian clothing. Mr Tanasie stated that the officers did not allow anyone aside from the inhabitants to enter the area, not even family members living on the outside of the wall. Indeed, the ERRC conducted in-terviews on the street because it was not permitted to enter the camp. Mr Tanasie also stated that the officers checked their bags every time they entered the camp. The camp was equipped with six portable toilets and one water tap. There was no electricity, the showers in the containers were not connected to the water supply and there was no heating. There were also no cooking facilities; the Roma were forced to cook outside on fires. The Roma complained to the ERRC that the municipality had not given them any information as to how long they would stay at Camp Via Barzaghi or whether they would move. A number of people were reportedly having difficulties renewing their permits of stay as Camp Via Barzaghi did not have a recognised municipal address. Further, the permit of at least one resident, Mr M. B., had been re-newed but the authorities refused to give it to him as he no longer lived on Via Adda, the address for which the permit was issued. The refusal to issue permits by authorities was reportedly making very difficult gaining and keeping regular employment. The ERRC was also informed that many families were separated during the expulsions that took place; for example Mr Lucian Tanasie told the ERRC that his common-law wife Cristiana Porcescu and their 5-year-old daughter were expelled to Romania following the eviction.

A number of families in which not all members had legal permits to be in Italy who left Via Adda on March 31 to avoid the evic-tion were effectively made homeless by the eviction. Mr V.R., an approximately 35-year-old Romani man with a permit of stay, testified that his family left its Via Adda home on March 31 because his wife and child did not have legal permits to be in the country and they feared being expelled. Mr V.R. stated that when he heard that persons from Via Adda with permits of stay were being housed at Camp Via Barzaghi just after the eviction, he asked the Civil Protection Of-fice that his family be housed in the new camp but was refused because they were not present at the time of the eviction. Mr V.R., his wife and baby were living in a 2-person pop-up tent outside the wall of the new camp. The area is without services, full of rubbish and, according to Mr V.R., infested with rats.

On June 18, the ERRC lodged a collective complaint against Italy under the Revised European Social Charter, alleging systematic violations of the right to adequate hous-ing. The full text of the compaint is available at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=1917. (ERRC, L'eco di Bergamo)

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