Amnesty International has today (11 March) called on the Italian authorities to halt a controversial housing plan which they say has resulted in the forced eviction of hundreds of Roma people and could pave the way for thousands more evictions over the coming months.
The NGO has launched a report entitled The Wrong Answer - Italy’s “Nomad Plan” violates the housing rights of Roma in Rome. The report argues that the programme, which began in July 2009, violates the human rights of thousands of Roma.
Amnesty says that the measures envisage the destruction of over 100 Roma settlements across the capital. An estimated 6,000 Roma are to be resettled into 13 new or expanded camps on the outskirts of the city.
Amnesty alleges that the decision was taken “without adequate consultation” and that it is likely to leave more than 1,000 Roma homeless.
In the last few months, hundreds of Roma families have already been evicted from at least five different camps.
Casilino 900, which was one of the largest Roma camps in Europe, was closed last month. Amnesty International says that only a few people in the camp had been consulted about the eviction.
The report alleges that the authorities are simply “shuffling” Roma people “out of sight”. It claims that this exacerbates the discrimination Roma face when applying for jobs and social housing, thus hindering their chances of obtaining regular employment that would enable them to afford private accommodation.
“I haven’t applied for social housing because it would be useless,” explained one Roma man to Amnesty, “If I say: 'my name is Saltana Ahmetovic, I live in Monachina', the municipality would never give me a house. I have requested electricity, and they don’t even want to connect that”.
Amnesty’s Ignacio Jovtis today insisted that “These measures must be scrapped immediately. Roma families across the Italian capital now face losing their possessions, their social contacts, their access to work and to state services”.
Jovtis accepted that “many Roma live in shacks and caravans lacking basic hygienic conditions”, but insisted that this is the result of “years of neglect, inadequate policies and discrimination”.
Elpida, a Macedonian Roma woman with a residence permit, who came to Italy in 1991 with her husband, told Amnesty that “we always dream that our children will have a house to live in, so they will not be called ‘gypsies’”.
Between 12,000 and 15,000 Roma are estimated to be living in and around Rome.
Around 3,000 of these are Italian Sinti, who have long roots in the country. In addition, many Roma have arrived from the Balkans since the 1960s. A large proportion of these now have residence permits and many of their children are Italian citizens. Over the last decade, a significant number of Roma have also arrived from the new EU member states, in particular from Romania.
While a few thousand of the Roma in Rome live in permanent accommodation, the majority live in different kinds of camps. In recent years, the Italian authorities have introduced a number of allegedly discriminatory measures which campaigners say contribute to the stigmatisation of the Roma people.
Jovtis insisted that “evictions without prior consultation and the offer of adequate alternative accommodation to all of those affected are a violation of human rights”.