Campland: Racial Segregation of Roma in Italy

05 October 2000

Campland: Racial Segregation of Roma in Italy

Anti-Romani stereotypes are also widespread in Italy today. Underpinning the Italian government’s approach to Roma is the conviction that Roma are “nomads”. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, ten out of the twenty regions in Italy adopted laws aimed at the “protection of nomadic cultures” through the construction of segregated camps. This project rendered official the perception that all Roma and Sinti are nomads and can only survive in camps, isolated from Italian society. As a result, many Roma have effectively been forced to live out the romantic and repressive projections of Italians; Italian authorities assert that their desire to live in flats or houses is inauthentic and relegate them to “camps for nomads”.

The description of Roma as “nomads” is not only used in the service of segregating and infantilising Roma, but also in order to reinforce the popular idea that Roma are not Italians and do not belong in Italy. The overweening anthropological sensitivity of Italian authorities runs only negatively, when it is a question of establishing Roma as an integral part of Italian society. As such, government offices addressing issues related to Roma are called “Offices of Nomad Affairs” and fall under the competence of the Department of Immigration. Similarly, the existence of local administrative offices for “Nomads and Non-Europeans” indicates that Roma are commonly perceived as foreigners and vagrants in the eyes of Italian authorities. These offices are responsible also for local, non-immigrant Italian Roma and Sinti.

The chapters of this report are organised as follows: after the introduction, the ERRC presents a brief history of Roma in Italy, a history which has led to racial segregation today. Next, documentation of abuses by Italian authorities is presented, including extreme abuses such as killings of Roma by police officers. The ERRC notes widespread destruction of Romani property and homes by authorities and documents recent heightened actions by Italian authorities to expel Roma from Italy. The fourth chapter addresses instances of abuse by non-state actors, as well as discrimination, especially in access to public services. Next, the report examines abuses of Roma rights in the areas of education and employment. By way of conclusion, the ERRC examines Italian government efforts in the fight against racial discrimination, especially in the wake of strongly worded criticism in March 1999 by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The report concludes with specific recommendations to the Italian government to improve its record in the area of Roma rights.

Campland: Racial Segregation of Roma in Italy


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