Proposed housing for Roma in Italy blocked

10 April 2001

A housing project for the 200 Roma living in the unauthorised camp of Via Gordiani on the edge of Rome was suspended by the City of Rome in December 2000, despite having been approved five years ago. The project was replaced with a proposal for temporary housing on the site of the camp. However, the daily newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on February 1, 2001, that on January 31, 2001, the Region of Lazio had dissolved the funds for the temporary proposal and declared that the land will instead be used to build homes for the elderly, handicapped and young couples. Local authorities are reported as having stated that the Roma currently living in the camp — which is not provided with electricity, running water or sanitation — will be moved, but have not provided details about a new location. The daily newspaper Il Tempo reported, on February 26, 2001, the regional director of urban planning, Armando Dionisi, as stating that, “the nomads of Via Gordiani must go.” Italian authorities frequently refer to Roma as “nomads”.

On February 4, 2001, the regional branches of Italy’s far right parties, Alleanza Nazionale and Forza Nuova, met publicly to celebrate “throwing the Gypsies out” of the Via Gordiani camp. The City of Rome had issued a permit for a public meeting at the Piazza Gerardo Maiella where approximately 200 right-wing supporters carried posters with “Gypsies out equals a victory for the neighbourhood” slogans. An estimated 200 non-Romani counter-protesters showed up in support of the 250 Roma who demonstrated against the public meeting and in support of the housing project. In other news from Via Gordiani, on February 9 at 10:30 PM, according to testimony provided to the ERRC,five uniformed police officers and fifteen plainclothes officers arrived at the camp without search warrants to look for an Italian woman known to socialise with Roma. One of the plainclothes officers was heard using derogatory language, threatening to “return with a gas can and burn the camp down” because “this is what you Gypsies get when you act up.”

In other Italian news, the 800-1000 Roma living in the unauthorised camp at Via Barzaghi on the periphery of Milan are currently under threat of eviction and possible expulsion. On October 9, 2000, 230 Roma without residence permits who live in the camp reported that state police and carabinieri (police under the competence of the Ministry of Defence) had ordered them to leave the area. Five shacks and a tent were pulled down and personal belongings were destroyed. One Romani man, 26-year old Mr B.Z. from Bosnia, reported that police laughed at him when he asked to file a complaint and told him to go “back to his home.” Mr B.Z.’s house in Bosnia was reportedly destroyed during the wars that followed the break-up of ex-Yugoslavia. The daily newspaper il Manifesto reported on October 12 that the 230 Roma who had been forced out had returned to the area of Via Barzaghi. On January 26, 2001, at around 6:00 AM, approximately 40-50 carabinieri carrying truncheons, rifles and dressed in riot gear, reportedly told inhabitants of the camp to leave dwellings they inhabited and to leave behind their personal possessions. One week after the raid, the electricity provided to one area of the camp was cut by municipal authorities. According to the non-governmental organisations Caritas and 3 Febbraio, the camp has often been subjected to abusive raids by police, and these have increased in frequency over the last year.

In more camp news, the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on November 29, 2000, that the previous night, a 9-day old Romani baby had died in the Candoni camp in Rome. The baby, named Enrico, died while sleeping between his mother and father. First reports from Corriere della Sera suggested that he suffocated between his parents, but a later reported indicated that he died of exposure. The funeral for the baby was disrupted by the police: before the procession for the burial began, police came to the camp for a “routine” identification check of those attending the funeral. Corriere della Sera further reported that one of Candoni’s security guards, Mr Angonio Ragucci, stated that the camp guards intended to protest the requirements of their work at the camp. “Our orders are to control and register who enters and exits the camp,” explained Ragucci. “We have to prohibit family members from entering after 7:00 PM and before we go off duty at 8:00 PM, we have to make rounds to all the containers to ensure that no friend or family member have stayed for dinner or card games. This, in our opinion, is a violation of civil liberties.” The situation of Roma in Italy is the subject of a recent ERRC Country Report Campland: Racial Segregation of Roma in Italy, available at www.errc.org

(3 Febbraio, Caritas, Coordinamento Cittadino, Corriere della Sera, ERRC, Il Manifesto, Il Tempo)

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