Italian court rules that official camps for Roma only are discriminatory as evictions continue
On 9 June the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) reported the Italian media as saying that approximately 100 Romani people are to be evicted from a facility called the Ferrotel building by the Municipality of Cosenza and relocated to an official, segregated tent camp. A total of 400 Romani people now living in the informal Vaglio Lise camp there have also been targeted for removal for some time.
Domestic and international NGOs are demanding answers about the plan. The ERRC, the Fondazione Romanì Italia (a nonprofit raising awareness about Roma), Lav Romano (a local NGO), OsservAzione - Action Research for Roma & Sinti Rights (an NGO combating anti-Romani racism) and the Scuola del Vento (an NGO promoting intercultural exchange) have sent a joint letter of concern noting that this move contravenes Italy's National Strategy for the inclusion of the Roma, Sinti and Caminanti Communities.
No one from the Romani community concerned was consulted about the plan and the NGOs are unaware of any sustainable housing proposals (instead of camps) to address the housing needs of these people. The local authority claims the evictions are based on a May court ruling confirming that the Rete Ferroviaria Italiana S.p.a.company owns the Ferrotel building.
The evictions, however, were announced prior to that ruling. Morover, the discriminatory manner in which the decision is being executed - constructing a segregated tent camp - contravenes EU and Italian law, according to the NGOs.
The Romani community being affected has lived in Cosenza for a decade. “This planned eviction will have serious consequences on the well-being and lives of the Roma residents, in particular their children. Instead of insuring their integration, the plans appear to stigmatise and exclude them on the basis of their race,” says András Ujlaky, Executive Director of the ERRC.
On 10 June the ERRC also reported that the La Barbuta Camp in Rome has been ruled discriminatory, the first time such an official Roma-only settlement in Europe has ever been found to violate equal treatment provisions. On 30 May the Civil Court in Rome handed down a first-instance decision finding such "nomadic camps" a form of ethnic discrimination that violates both EU and Italian law.
The case was brought in April 2012 by the NGOs Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration and the Associazione 21 Luglio to halt construction of La Barbuta. The suit was supported by Amnesty International, the ERRC and the Open Society Foundations.
The court ruled that the construction of the La Barbuta "village" was discriminatory and therefore unlawful. "It must indeed be considered as discriminatory any large scale housing solution directed only at persons belonging to the same ethnic group, especially if realised, as in the case of the settlement site in La Barbuta, in order to hinder cohabitation with the majority population, and in terms of equal access, to fair conditions, to education and social health services located in an area where there is a serious risk to the health of persons residing there," reads the translation provided of the ruling by the ERRC.
The court also noted "the indirect discriminatory nature of the Rome Municipality’s behavior [...] that it expressed in the allocation of housing in the formal camp La Barbuta," ordering the City of Rome to halt any future such actions and to adequately, fairly address the needs of the affected Roma community. The NGOs concerned have stressed that the overall situation in Italy for Roma with respect to accessing housing remains seriously flawed and are urging the European Commission to begin an infringement proceedings against Italy over its failure to properly implement the Race Equality Directive in this respect.
On 15 June the European Roma and Travellers Forum issued its Factsheet about the situation of Romani people in Italy. The sheet notes that the European Commission has already launched an inquiry to determine whether Italy has violated the Race Equality Directive by building these "authorized" camps.
News server rttnews.com reported on 9 June that the La Barbuta camp consisted of prefabricated container housing surrounded by fencing near the airport and was ostensibly built under powers granted by a "state of emergency" declared by the Italian Government in 2008. A court decision, however, had annulled that Government order in 2011.
Despite that ruling, construction of La Barbuta was completed and housing there was assigned to Roma only. Many Romani families forcibly evicted from the Tor de' Cenci informal camp were relocated there, according to rttnews.com.
Commentator Giuseppe Terranova has recently posted the view on the west-info.eu portal that getting rid of camps occupied by Romani people would deprive the ultra-right Lega Nord party of a target for their "bile". He notes that most "nomads" are Italian citizens, most of whom "live like everyone else".
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