Saturday

27th May 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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

Column / Brexit Briefing

Ukip's last electoral stand

Nigel Farage's anti-EU party is unlikely to win any seats at the 8 June elections. After the loss of his charismatic leadership, the party is just a rag-tag of third raters.

Respecting human rights is good business

Trade policy creates economic welfare, but it could also be an unmissable opportunity to protect the environment, human rights and ensure sustainable development across Europe and beyond.

Development serving the purpose of migration control

While the EU is sacrificing development aid to serve short-term migration interests, it is important to realise that enhanced border controls will not solve the root causes of forced migration and displacement.

News in Brief

  1. Malloch will not be US ambassador to the EU
  2. 'Significant' drop in EU migration to UK
  3. Bomb injures former Greek PM
  4. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  5. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  6. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  7. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  8. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Cost of Speaking Out: Human Rights Violations Committed in Belarus
  2. ACCABanishing Bias? Audit, Objectivity and the Value of Professional Scepticism
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Oslo Climate Declaration Focuses on Rising Temperatures in the Arctic
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceAbdominal Obesity: A Causal Risk Factor for Cardiometabolic Diseases
  5. EU Green Week 2017Discuss EU Environmental Policies With Industry Experts and Thought Leaders
  6. GEN Summit 2017Join the World's Leading Media Summit for Thought-Provoking Talks and Experiences
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTogether for Human Rights: A Year in Review
  8. Malta EU 2017EU All Set for Free Roaming Starting 15 June
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersRefugee Unemployment Biggest Drain on Public Purse, Says New Nordic Studies
  10. Dialogue Platform17,000 Women, 515 Babies in Turkish Prisons, a Report Reveals
  11. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  12. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey