Anti-Roma posters in small Italian town are a dark reminder of the neo-fascist threat in Europe

12 June 2024

By Judit Ignácz

In the small Italian town of Mondragone, a disturbing act of racism has recently come to light, sparking both local and international concern. The European Roma Rights Centre filed a complaint on 6 March 2024 to draw attention to racist posters targeting the Romani communities that surfaced on the municipality's entrance door of the Mondragone Town Hall. According to media reports, on the 24th of February, unknown individuals affixed small posters promoting anti-Roma racism and fascism. These posters contained the following statements: “Basta rom a Mondragone per un paese migliore” ("No more Roma in Mondragone for a better country") and then again “Mondragone è fascista” ("Mondragone is fascist").

The ERRC has urgently requested the initiation of comprehensive investigations aimed at identifying those responsible for posting racist posters and bringing them to justice, preventing the escalation of further hate-motivated incidents.

Italian History of Anti-Roma Hatred

This was not a random act of vandalism but a calculated move targeting the Romani communities. Italy has a troubling history of escalating verbal attacks against Roma into actual pogroms. The Ponticelli pogrom in 2008, the Molotov attack on the Romani community of La Continassa in Turin in 2011, and many others are haunting reminders of the consequences of unchecked racism and intolerance. The recent incident in Mondragone is a worrying manifestation of longstanding antigypsyism in Italy, where, according to troubling statistics by a 2019 Pew Research survey, 83% of Italians held unfavourable views on Roma.

Widespread antigypsyism is not confined to prejudiced opinions and racist posters. Between January 2017 and March 2021, Italian authorities carried out at least 187 evictions of Romani-inhabited places, affecting 3,156 people who were mostly rendered homeless or placed into unstable housing. Families were evicted without consultation, formal orders, or alternative accommodation offers. The situation for those in government-run camps is only marginally better, with Italy continuing to use ethnically segregated "nomad camps" instead of inclusive housing solutions. The Council of Europe's European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) has ruled that Italy's persistent discriminatory treatment of Roma in its housing policies is a severe violation of the European Social Charter. The decision responds to a complaint filed by Amnesty International and highlights issues of forced evictions, segregated and sub-standard housing, and lack of equal access to social housing for Roma.

Hate speech and racially aggravated crimes against Roma in Italy have also been on the rise, with incidents of incitement, false allegations, and mob violence. Social media has amplified this and, worryingly, has been allowed or even encouraged by government members. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed serious concerns about this increase in intolerance, racial and religious hatred, and xenophobia.

Neo-fascism in 21st -century Europe

Additionally, Italy's political landscape has been marked by far-right interventions, with Minister Matteo Salvini's racist comments on imprisoned Romani mothers “using children and pregnancy to avoid prison and continue to commit crimes.” A bill to improve conditions for imprisoned mothers put forward by the Democratic Party was later withdrawn due to right-wing amendments. The election victory of Giorgia Meloni and the treatment of Italy's Romani population by the far-right, including mass evictions and destruction of camps, highlights the normalization of neo-fascism in 21st-century Europe.

The Italian government and online far-right groups have targeted Romani women with a racist hate campaign and a 'security decree' that allows for the detention of Romani mothers accused of theft and their children under three. Far-right groups have posted photos of young Romani women on social media, falsely accusing them of crimes and stigmatising them. Biased and discriminatory representation of Romani communities in Italian media, such as the TV program "Fuori dal Coro," perpetuates harmful stereotypes and incites hatred. Such portrayals violate principles of impartiality and equality and potentially exacerbate existing biases and discrimination.

Real-life consequences of hate speech and incitement of hatred

The ERRC has called for an investigation into the death of a 6-year-old Romani girl, Michelle, who died after being electrocuted by a loose wire at a camp in Naples. The ERRC's complaint highlights potential institutional responsibility for the lack of services and possible negligence within the segregated Romani camp. The ERRC has previously complained about the poor housing situation in the camp, including forced evictions and lack of access to essential services.

Hasib Omerovic, a 36-year-old Romani man with hearing loss, fell into a coma after falling nine meters from his bedroom window during an unauthorised police raid. The family's home was in disarray, and the police provided no official information about the incident.

The incident in Mondragone is a stark reminder of the deep-seated racism and intolerance that permeates Italian society, now exacerbated by a far-right government whose presence in Rome gives license to fascists to express their hatred without challenge. It is not enough to condemn these actions; perpetrators must be held accountable. The issue extends beyond Italy, with anti-Roma racism and structural discrimination against Romani people being a human rights issue throughout Europe; one that stands at a precipice with looming far-right gains in elections across the continent. It is high time to acknowledge and address the systemic, structured nature of racism and discrimination faced by the Romani communities in every field of life. The fight against anti-Roma racism is increasingly an antifascist action in Europe – a fight for human rights, justice, and respect. 


Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.


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