Europe abandons the Roma in Italy

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Europe abandons the Roma in Italy

‘They are throwing us on the street like dogs,’ says one person says Catrinel Motoc.


© Amnesty International / Claudio Menna

Before International Roma Day on 8 April, EU leaders in Brussels talked a lot about the Roma, Europe’s largest and poorest minority.

But on 6 April, the police made hundreds of Roma in Italy leave the Gianturco informal settlement in Naples by force. This eviction (making people leave by force) shows us the discrimination against the Roma, and that the European Commission do not take action. The Financial Times recently showed there is discrimination at the top of the European Commission: it refuses to take Italy to court for discriminating against Roma about housing.

The leaders talk about equality of rights and inclusion in Brussels, but they are doing nothing to stop the injustices and they allow Italy to discriminate against the Roma.

There are about 170,000 Roma living in Italy. About 40,000 of them live in simple, dirty camps. They cannot get social housing and are often forced to move on. This is against EU anti-discrimination and race equality laws. For example, in June last year 300 people had to leave the Giugliano camp and move to the site of an old fireworks factory. The European Commission knew this but did nothing.

Five years ago, the Commission started a pilot investigation against Italy. The Commission have a duty to keep EU law, but have done nothing about the forced evictions and abuse in Italy since then.

At 7am on 6 April, many police came to Gianturco, a Roma settlement in Naples. The people had lived there for about six years and there was a threat of eviction every day for more than a year. By 11am, there were only clothes, toys, furniture, mattresses and gas canisters that people had to leave. People had to leave suddenly and had no compensation and many had nowhere to go.


Amnesty International / Claudio Menna

This happens often to the Roma in Italy – but in Gianturco there was more suffering – there were about 1,300 people to evict. But many had already left when the bulldozers arrived. Buses took the some of the others morning to a container camp ‘Via del Riposo’ – this site has been set on fire in a hate crime before. Other people are now homeless, many were outside the camp and did not know where to sleep.

Two children, brother and sister, watched the bulldozers coming to destroy their homes: ‘Here we were fine, we liked it, we had three rooms, one for me, one for my brother, and one for my parents. The house was big. Where they will take us we don’t know how it will be.’

An elderly man, Costica, told Amnesty: ‘Why aren’t they giving me a place? It’s me and my wife. What should I do? I cannot stay here waiting by these gates.’

In February 2012, the Italian government started the National Strategy for Roma Inclusion. It wants to work on four main areas of health care, education, employment and housing, to stop the poverty and include Romani communities. The plan was to end camps and move Romani people to houses.

But more than five years later, there is no progress. Different Italian governments have failed, or never really tried, to act.

Between 2013 and 2015, there were 168 forced evictions in the city of Rome, and some people were moved many times. In 2013 Italian authorities moved a group of Romani men, women and children to a Roma-only camp next to the runway at Ciampino airport in Rome. They didn’t organise any other place to live for them even after the Rome Civil Court said this move showed discrimination.

The European Commission has said nothing about Italy’s terrible treatment of Roma, but they could do a lot. The Commission made the Czech Republic change after discrimination against Roma in education and should put the same pressure in Italy. Or the suffering in Gianturco will happen again and again.

Catrinel Motoc is a Regional Campaigner at Amnesty International.

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