Roma Expelled from Italy

10 May 2003

On November 22, 2002, Ms Roxana Silvia Zamfir, an 18-year-old Romani youth, testified to the ERRC that she and her common-law husband, Mr Traian Codrut Costache, had been expelled to Romania from Italy, reportedly in violation of international law. Ms Zamfir stated that she and Mr Costache entered Italy in March 2002 with their 2-year-old daughter Maria. Ms Zamfir and Mr Costache applied for asylum but their application was rejected. The family, however, remained in Italy with Ms Zamfir's parents, who were legally living there. According to Ms Zamfir, at around 1:00 AM on October 23, 2002, she and Mr Costache had a minor car accident with a car they had borrowed. Mr Costache, who was driving, did not have a driver's license, so when the police arrived, the two of them were reportedly taken to the Trastevere Police Station where they were held for around thirty minutes, during which time, no one spoke to them. At this time, Ms Zamfir told the ERRC, she and Mr Costache were taken to the immigration headquarters at the Via Genoa Police Station in Rome where they were fingerprinted and photographed and their names were checked in a police database to see if they had previously been involved in criminal activities in Italy. Ms Zamfir reported that she had a clean record, but that she was unsure about her husband. An officer reportedly told Ms Zamfir and Mr Costache that they should not worry and that they would soon be free. At 4:00 AM, they were taken back to the Trastevere Police Station and held until 7:30 AM until the immigration office at the Via Genoa Police Station officially opened. During this time, Ms Zamfir told the ERRC, she and Mr Costache were not given any water or food, were forced to sit up in chairs, and were not allowed to sleep. When they arrived at the immigration office, Ms Zamfir testified that they were told to sign some documents and they would be released, so they signed the documents even though they were written in Italian and she and her husband did not understand what they said and no translator was provided. At 4:00 PM, Ms Zamfir was reportedly taken to the Ponte Galeria Detention Centre, and Mr Costache joined her at 9:30 PM. Ms Zamfir told the ERRC that they were held at the Centre until their subsequent expulsions. After Mr Costache was expelled to Romania on October 31, 2002, Ms Zamfir stated that she was informed that she would also be expelled, so her father hired a lawyer, who filed a new claim for asylum on behalf of Ms Zamfir, which was rejected after one week. On November 13, 2002, Ms Zamfir was taken to an office in the Ponte Galeria Detention Centre where she was told that she would be sent back to Romania that day and asked if she wanted to take her daughter with her, to which she responded that she would not. According to Italian Decree 286/98, children cannot be expelled from Italy. Ms Zamfir said that, after this, she was asked to sign a document. She reportedly signed the document, but did not know what it was. Two police officers took her to the airport immediately and accompanied her to the plane.

Ms Zamfir told the ERRC that she did not have her passport or any of her personal documents when she was expelled because she left them with her family as she thought that it would make her expulsion more difficult. She also stated that her daughter fell ill while she was in the Ponte Galeria Detention Centre, but her family did not tell her because they did not want to cause her more stress. According to Ms Zamfir, the Italian authorities gave her a document that states that she is forbidden from entering the Schengen Zone - a group of countries in Western Europe applying a common border policy - for ten years. On March 19, 2003, Attorney Piero Paoletti sent a complaint against Italy to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Ms Zamfir and her 2-year-old daughter, represented by Ms Zamfir's father, Mr Ionel Zamfir, who lives in Italy. The complaint alleges that Italy violated the following provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and requests that the court award damages to the applicants: Article 3 (prohibition of torture and degrading and inhuman treatment), Article 5 (right to liberty and security), Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy). Further information on the treatment of Roma in Italy is available on the ERRC's Internet website at: http://www.errc.org. (ERRC)

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