Thursday

21st Jun 2018

Opinion

EU should stop Italy's forced segregation of Roma

  • A court ordered the removal of the Romani families from the Giugliano camp on the outskirts of Naples (Photo: Amnesty International)

A toddler, stumbling barefoot through thick mud is luckily not a common sight in modern-day Europe. But during a recent visit to a segregated camp built specifically to house Roma on the outskirts of Naples, this is exactly what I saw.

The Giugliano camp, set up by the local municipality next to a landfill containing toxic waste, illustrates clearly the hopeless situation Roma are forced into by Italy’s unwillingness to provide adequate accommodation for its Romani population.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

When a court ordered the removal of Roma from the perilous conditions of Giugliano, authorities had a chance to do the right thing. Instead they again opted for another camp as an alternative place to live, ignoring the warnings of non-governmental organisations such as OsservAzione that this policy promotes the heartless segregation of the Romani community.

Unfortunately, Giugliano is not an isolated case.

Italian authorities have marooned men, women and children in a Roma-only camp next to Ciampino airport runway in Rome, and haven’t provided suitable alternative accommodation for these people even after the Rome Civil Court ruled the relocation discriminatory.

Forced evictions of hundreds of residents from the camps of Lungo Stura Lazio in Turin and Via Idro in Milan in the last year – again without providing adequate alternative housing – further underlines the prejudicial horror show that accommodation for Roma in Italy has become.

Merry-go-round

The pattern is now firmly ingrained. Authorities deem one Roma encampment uninhabitable, only to move residents to another segregated camp far away from basic services, and sometimes into conditions no human should be forced to live in – such as in Giugliano and Ciampino.

Then, after neglecting this new camp for years, authorities cite health and safety concerns and forcibly evict Romani families yet again to another inadequate settlement – often a fresh segregated camp.

This constant merry-go-round of inadequate temporary encampments is virtually impossible for any Romani family seeking a better quality of life to escape from, due to Italian authorities barring Roma from alternative housing.

Investments in social housing are minimal and selection criteria are extremely difficult for Romani families living in camps to meet.

The result? Thousands of one of Europe’s most marginalised minorities stranded in large, segregated mono-ethnic camps due to their racial and ethnic origin.

In fact, people of Italian nationality, other nationals and stateless people alike live in these camps, all having one thing in common – being Roma.

Roma inclusion

Italy’s much-heralded National Strategy for Roma Inclusion (NSRI) was supposed to rebalance the scales and open the doors to adequate housing that Romani communities desperately need. But four years into its implementation, phrases such as “Roma inclusion” and “national strategy” are now no more than buzzwords designed to maintain the smoke and mirror “successes” of a failed and ineffective policy.

Allowing such injustices against Roma to continue not only flies in the face of what the NSRI set out to achieve, but clearly violates international human rights law and, crucially, the European Union’s Race Equality Directive – legislation banning discrimination in access to services, including housing.

It is high time the European Commission stepped in and initiated an infringement procedure against Italy for clearly breaching EU anti-discrimination law.

Such action would not be unprecedented. The commission has in the past opened proceedings against the Czech Republic and Slovakia for discriminating against Romani children in schools, but it has never responded to states discriminating against Roma from access to adequate housing.

Roma Day

The next meeting of the College of Commissioners, just ahead of International Roma Day (8 April), should be taken as a perfect opportunity to put this right.

Having delayed a decision for years on the topic, it is imperative that Commissioners live up to their stated commitment to the rule of law and send a decisive message that the enforced segregation of Roma within the Italian housing system will not be tolerated.

The halls of the European Union may appear far removed from the thick mud of the Giugliano Roma camp. Commissioners must bridge that gap and force Italy to move Roma away from toxic waste and airport runways, and into the adequate housing the children of Giugliano have the right to enjoy.

Matteo de Bellis is Amnesty International’s researcher on Italy

The risks behind the 'green bond' boom

The EU should not overuse the financial system in order to achieve environmental goals, or it risks the emergence of a green bond bubble which would be detrimental to the financial sector and hinder the achievement of climate targets.

EU needs comprehensive 'sexuality education'

The subject is mandatory by law in some form in nearly all EU countries - but it is mostly reproduction- and biology-centred, covering topics such as unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections.

Fate of EU refugee deal hangs in the balance

Europe's choice is between unplanned, reactive, fragmented, ineffective migration policy and planned, regulated, documented movements of people, writes International Rescue Committee chief David Miliband.

The Baltic 'Big Sea' strategy

The Baltic Sea is almost an inland European lake - it borders Norway, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Kaliningrad and Russia. It also has an EU strategy - and an action plan.

EU needs comprehensive 'sexuality education'

The subject is mandatory by law in some form in nearly all EU countries - but it is mostly reproduction- and biology-centred, covering topics such as unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections.

Long-distance animal transport: unthinkable still happening

A complete overhaul of animal products' supply chains is needed, privileging local food chains including local slaughtering which is proven to benefit the environment, the resilience of our economy, food safety and animal welfare.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  2. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  4. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  7. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  10. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  12. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us