Camp and Housing Rights of Roma in Italy

10 December 2013

Camp and Housing Rights of Roma in Italy

Roberto Hamidovic: My name is Roberto Hamidovic. In August, I will be 31 years old. I am Roma, born and raised in Italy, in Rome and I am an activist.

Many people say that we Roma are Italian by documents because we were born and have grown up here, but by blood we are not Italians. Therefore, where we are from, who we are, we still don’t have the same rights as the Italians that grow up here and are born here.

I have been evicted 70 times. I didn’t know where to go anymore in my life. From the time that I was in my mother’s belly, up until 2005, I have always been evicted.

Life for me is evictions. When I see the police I get scared that they might stop me and ask where I am going. But since I’ve had my documents I’m a bit more at ease.

We were transferred to this camp “Di Pontina” in 2005. First we were in ex Cinodromo di Viale Marconi, which is a suburb of Rome near the San Paolo Metro. We moved here September 2005.

Rosi Mangiacavallo: Castel Romano is in the 12th municipality, on Via Pontina. It is 20 km from Rome, and about 5 km from Pomezia on a state highway that is not meant for pedestrians, that the Roma have to walk 4 km along if they want to get to the nearest bus station.

Roberto: People are stressed here, because there is nowhere you can have a walk…there is nothing here. Many youngsters are very stressed, you can easily see that. Sometimes they are playing, joking but not like it used to be back in Vicolo Savini. Our life has changed radically.

Ulderico Daniele: In the first nine months in the camp, from September to February or March 2006, the Roma lived in tents provided by the Department of Civil Protection. They spent a winter in the tents with water that flowed inside and underneath all of them.

Roberto: As you can see, now there are houses here, but they did not exist in 2005. There were tents from the Department of Civil Protection. We lived in some dramatic conditions.

Then they built these pre-built houses, though after 5 years they are falling apart a bit because they are not 100% habitable.

This camp was supposed to be a transition camp, temporary…unfortunately it has become a stable thing for us.

Ulderico: Until 2 or 3 years ago, there was no safe drinking water and even today there is not a supply of safe drinking water. It was also promised that there would be a public transport service, but even today there is still none.

Rosi: The use of alcohol, drugs and the presence of psychological problems is common and widespread. This information was given to us partly by Roma respondents and partly by the organisations operating in these camps. The causes – that shouldn’t definitely be looked for in the Roma culture - come from the living conditions. From the segregation the Roma are forced to live in and also from the frustration of failed integration.

Ulderico: What I know for sure is that many of their school careers stopped with the eviction to Castel Romano. What I know for sure is that many friendships with Italians of the same age from their area have come to a halt. Many of their personal chances to relate with the surrounding environment came to a halt.

Roberto: I want to get out of the camps because it is an ugly place, ‘cause living with 2000 people turns it into a place of social degradation, it is known.

For me life is difficult because you live in a Roma camp, you have troubles with public transport, you can’t reach the economic level to buy yourself a car, you can’t interact with people inside here, you can’t interact with the society outside…a Roma guy gets disillusioned by all this. As a starting point we are excluded by society.

We are born inside a Roma camp and we are a generation of Roma youngsters, in camps, with very little education and plenty of cultural issues.

I’m not doing well in here. I live on the back of Italians because I don’t pay water or electricity bills. I live in poverty and marginalisation. Is this a life for the Roma community? No, this isn’t a life.

Carlo Stasolla: Well, the State of Emergency led to the issuing of Nomad Plans. That means evictions, new camps, a concentration of Roma inside camps. It means regulations that harrass Roma, like the ‘DAST’ which is a card that allowed and still allows Roma to enter the camps.

Rome’s Nomad Plan has had a very high social price. On one side we have to look at the expenses. So, we can say that the Nomad Plan, from the day it was issued on 31July 2009, until now, has cost some 62 million euros.

Ulderico: This means that a place like a Nomad camp, built and paid by local authorities, with a series of social services, operated and maintained at the expenses of local authorities becomes, in truth, the place for a kind of economic traffic with no justification at all and becomes, in truth, a place where a series of relationships based on violence turn out to be economic exchanges! The Roma so-called “Camp’s leader”, can have a set of incomes because he privately, decides who can stay in the containers and pay the rent to him.

Rome’s Nomad Plan has definitely had a major impact on Roma’s lives, and mainly on women and children’s lives. Then, there are the direct consequences. Let’s not forget that living inside a camp, inside one of Rome’s “villages”, means living in a ghetto, living in a ghetto means developing the so-called “ghetto diseases”. Then, very often, such camps are situated where the environmental situation is on the edge, close to rubbish dumps, waste incinerators or landing areas for planes.

We have detected a number of diseases, mainly affecting the younger Roma, ranging from dermatitis, colitis, learning disorders, sleep disorders, anxiety, emotional stress… up to a series of diseases found in women which lead to depression and a massive use of anti-depressive drugs. On the other side, men have a high use and abuse of alcohol and dope. All this is attributable to a segregated life and, for sure, not to a “Roma culture”. In fact, we say that any family of any culture going today to live in an “equipped village” would develop such diseases putting at risk its health and physical and psychological safety.

Ulderico: The overall situation of the Roma camps and the Roma that live there could best be represented by the image of a bad film that never ends. That continues to get worse, step by step.

Roberto: There are many young Roma people like me, and we want to grow and get out of the Roma camps’ context, of criminality, of social degradation. Even us we want to be part of this society like any other European citizen.

I vote, I vote every time always hoping that something may change. Nothing ever changes, neither right nor left, for us Roma.

I don’t want criminality, I don’t want to exploit anybody. I want a job, I want to move out of the camp and I want to live in legality. And every single day I’m struggling for it.

There are many people that are working, someone is working in construction, my brother at the restaurant at the mall, we are slowly growing but we need the will to understand that we exist too and that we want to get out of camps.

I was born and raised here, what am I? I’m not Bosnian, they would kick me out of there too. A “Roma country” doesn’t exist, I don’t have a Roma passport, a document. I have Italian documents, where can I live?

In my life I want to accomplish one thing: to get out of the camp and for the Roma community to realise that they have to get out of camps. 

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