Police raids and deportations in Italy
12 April 2000
A pre-dawn raid by more than 400 municipal and state police ended in the deportation of 36 Roma from the Tor de’ Cenci camp, located on the northern periphery of Rome, on March 3, 2000. Twenty other Roma from the Casilino 700 camp, also in Rome, were deported on the same plane.
According to media reports and eyewitness testimony, in the early morning hours of March 3, authorities taking part in an unannounced raid dismantled the Tor de’ Cenci camp, inhabited mainly by Roma from Bosnia, in an operation that took less than three hours. All of the inhabitants of the camp were detained and subjected to checks. Those Roma who had valid permits issued by local police — reportedly 98 out of 210 persons in the camp — were detained and brought to a nearby camp at Via Carucci, approximately fifteen kilometres from the camp at Tor de’ Cenci, also on the edge of Rome. Those Roma who did not have valid permits — reportedly 112 individuals in total — were detained and subjected to record checks and interrogations. Officials destroyed property belonging to Roma in the process of dismantling the camp.
Two police buses drove 36 Romani men, women and children from the Tor de’ Cenci camp to Rome’s main airport, Leonardo da Vinci, in the nearby suburb of Fiumicino. Upon arriving at the airport, the Roma were then ushered through an alternate entrance, so that the expulsion, “for security purposes, would not attract public attention,” according to Luigi Lusi, the Counselor to the Mayor of Rome for the Issue of Casilino and Nomads. The thirty-six Tor de’ Cenci inhabitants were then put together with twenty Roma from the camp Casilino 700. In the end, fifty-six people were loaded onto an aircraft leased by the Ministry of the Interior, accompanied by an approximately equal number of military police. The plane departed from Rome for Sarajevo, Bosnia, at 2:55 PM.
According to the Italian non-governmental organisation ARCI, 19-year-old Ms Behara Omerović was deported to Bosnia despite being in her fifth month of pregnancy. She was deported with her daughter Magdalena, who was born in Rome in February 1999. Sixteen-year-old Sanela Sejdović was also deported with her infant daughter Shelly Hrustić, born mid-February 2000. Fourteen-year-old Serbo Hrustić, who was born in France, was expelled with his grandmother. For the last three seasons, Serbo has played for a local soccer team at Spinaceto, an area close to the camp, and he became a card-carrying player for the Fiamme Gialle athletic team in January 2000. He was extremely proud of the document — it was his first ‘official’ one. On the night of March 3, according to eyewitnesses, when the police raided the camp, he showed his soccer card as identification. An officer reportedly tore the card up and slapped him. Serbo reportedly does not speak Bosnian. Another boy, Mirsad O., was separated from his mother when police refused to believe that the woman with whom he was taken away was his aunt. Mirsad O., 15 years old, was deported to Bosnia in his pyjamas. His mother, Devleta O., is still in Italy.
Police and municipal officials refused to provide the ERRC with any information on either the raids, the detentions, or the group deportations. During the week following the raids, police have returned frequently to the camp at Via Carucci. On March 4 at approximately 1:30 PM more Roma were detained, but subsequently released. No expulsion orders were issued, but many Roma from the camp said that they felt ‘threatened’ by the police. “One policeman told me that if I didn’t leave on my own, I would be sent away like the others,” 24-year-old Mr S.D. told the ERRC. Mr Mario Donati of the government’s Office for Nomads’ Affairs stated, in a telephone interview with the ERRC on March 5, 2000, that the government was still “examining the possibility of more expulsions.” Journalists and monitors were not allowed to witness the operation, neither the breakdown of the camp, nor the deportation from the airport. Referring to the Roma concerned as “nomads”, Mayor of Rome Mr Franceso Rutelli stated in a faxed press release dated March 6 that the operation had been “successful” and that police removed “nomads involved in illegal activities.”
On March 7, 2000, the ERRC sent a letter to Italian Prime Minister Mr Massimo D’Alema to express concern at the group expulsions. In the letter, the ERRC urged Prime Minister D’Alema to provide the public with an explanation as to the legal grounds for the action and to condemn forthwith policies targeting Roma for group expulsion from Italy. The ERRC further urged Prime Minister D’Alema to initiate thorough investigation into allegations that officers used excessive force while detaining individuals for expulsion and destroyed property belonging to Roma, and to punish strictly officers guilty of abuse.