Rebecca Covaciu, 12-year-old Roma girl, winner of the 2008 Unicef Prize, assaulted in Milan
The assault took place at 8 a.m. in Milan (Italy) on Tuesday June 17th. The Covaciu family, Romanians of the Roma ethnic group, already the victims of endless wandering around Italy due to abuse, threats and camp clearances, were leaving the tent they have been living in in a micro-settlement in the Gianbellino area, when they were brutally attacked by two Italians aged between 35 and 40. Rebecca, aged 12, (known in Italy for having been awarded the 2008 Unicef – Caffè Shakerato prize for her artistic gifts applied to intercultural topics) and her brother Ioni, aged 14, were first pushed around and then beaten.
Their parents (their father Stelian Covaciu, is a minister of the Pentecostal Church) and Rebecca’s older brother rushed to defend the children and were showered with racist insults, threatened, told to leave Italy, and then beaten. At that point the Covacius fled towards San Cristoforo station, in Piazza Tirana, and realising they were still being followed, they turned to passers-by for help. But no one lifted a finger. As the family made their way to the nearby park, Mrs Covaciu, who suffers from a heart problem, was taken ill. Stelian Covaciu then telephoned Roberto Malini from EveryOne Group, who alerted the Milanese police and had a patrol car and ambulance sent round. When the police arrived, their assailants made their escape. Even before this assault Unicef had expressed its indignation over young Rebecca’s situation. Rebecca is the symbol of childhood deprived of its rights. EveryOne Group was already in the process of organizing the Covacius’ return to Romania to escape the hostility being directed at Roma citizens in Milan and throughout Italy.
“This new wave of violence against Roma families is terrible and civil society should make itself heard”, say Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau, the leaders of EveryOne. “What happened to Rebecca and her family is symptomatic of the climate of hatred and intolerance towards the Roma people which is now totally out of control in Italy. Unfortunately this is no isolated case, just the umpteenth grave episode of violence towards an innocent family which once again will remained unpunished, thus announcing dark times for Italy.” EveryOne recently reported the assault in Rimini of a young pregnant Roma girl who was kicked by an Italian man while she was out begging. The assault took place among the indifference of those present. In Pesaro, a few days ago, Thoma, the oldest member of the local Roma community, who is lame and suffers from a heart problem, was hit over the head and humiliated in the middle of the historical centre of the city. In the same city, the priests have banned the Roma from begging in front of their churches. In the days prior to the assault on the Covaciu family, EveryOne Group had received news of numerous episodes of violence carried out by Italians citizens towards people of the Roma ethnic group, particularly towards its weakest members: children and women. “The present climate of general discrimination and the hostile attitude of the authorities”, say Malini, Pegoraro and Picciau “has meant that the victims of these assaults no longer find the courage to report their assailants. What is more, statements like those of Roberto Maroni, Minister of the Interior, who preach “zero tolerance” against the Roma; the taking of records with identification photos and even blood samples for DNA; the indiscriminate camp clearances without the offer of alternative solutions and regular camps; the removal of Roma children from families with no means of support – declarations that would horrify any democratic exponent in a civilized country – end up instigating violence and abuse against the weakest and most defenceless citizens”.
Santino Spinelli, from the Associazione Thèm Romano onlus and “Caffè Shakerato in Genoa (an Italian organization promoting intercultural activities and a respect for children’s rights) join EveryOne in expressing deep concern over this episode - the result once more of the racial hatred that is rampant throughout Italy.
“There is a need for unanimous condemnation of these episodes by Italian politicians and European institutions” say the group leaders “serious measures have to be taken against those who disregard human rights and become the bearers of xenophobic and racist violence and discrimination”.
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