Pogroms and Expulsions of Rom in Italy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Italian Premier Berlusconi announces “war” on all those that “frighten the Italian people” - do they frighten easily? He promises to be tough on those who make his people afraid. Poor Italians being afraid of things so easily.

However, all joking aside, it would appear as if, with the fires stoked by Berlusconi via his media outlets, Italy may be succumbing to a wave of racism and xenophobia under its new center-right government determined to stamp out encampments of Roma migrants, better known as Gypsies, and to stop the influx of illegal migrants.

Silvio Berlusconi, who won a sweeping election victory in May 2008, put together a coalition with the anti-immigrant Northern League and the so-called post-Fascist Alleanza Nazionale.

They agree with Berlusconi's slogan: "Italians have the right not to live in fear", which can only be interpreted to mean "targeting those who make Italians afraid."

The Roma, and Gypsies in general, appear to make Italians afraid but afraid of what? Yes, many of the Roma from the former Yugoslavia and now the new Roma arrivals from Romania and Bulgaria, may be illegal immigrants, though in the case of those from Romania and Bulgaria this is, theoretically not true as they are from and EU member state, but the great majority, so it would appear, of them in fact work in rather menial jobs; jobs which, more than likely, most Italians are “afraid” to do.

Berlusconi has announced a crackdown on illegal immigration and street crime.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, deputy leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League, said that the government was responding to the concern of Italians over immigration and personal security. He said that the government condemned vigilante attacks on immigrants, including arson attacks on Gypsy camps. Ands while they condemn the attacks verbally their own security forces were standing idle by while the attacks on the Gypsy camps took place, if they not, in fast, as sources report, were actually actively assisting in the attacks.

EU and UN powerless? Or are they not willing to act, as it is only Gypsies?

I have heard many Romani the world over ask why the European Union and the United Nations are not doing anything to help the Gypsies who have been attacked and to prevent this from happening again. Indeed a very good question. The answer it probably that, as it is only Gypsies they could not be bothered except making a few statements.

When we, the Rom, finally learn that all those bodies only talk, talk, and talk, but will NEVER do anything as far as the Gypsy are concerned then, maybe then, we will actually be able to get somewhere.

How long, however, and especially what, will it take before Sinti, Roma, Cale, will wake up to this fact? Until the first roundups? Oh, wait a minute, they are happening as we speak. Until the first concentration camps for Gypsies on the soil of EU member states? Oops, they also are under construction. Or until the first actual transports to such new concentration camps?

Bar lots of verbal, if that, both the EU and the UN will do absolutely nothing for we are neither Jews nor Kosovo Albanians, nor Muslims per se.

The EU and UN will, as I said, just talk to the likes of Berlusconi, the latter who recently gave the Italian fascist salute on a balcony when addressing a crowd. Duce II seems to have arrived, only this one is of much tougher stuff, as far as Gypsies are concerned, as was Duce I, old Mussolini, like they talk to Mugabe, and they will be ignored. All that talk, in the first place, is not meant to achieve anything; it is but window dressing; it is but make-believe, and illusion, so that the world gets lulled into believing that the EU and the UN actually do something for the poor Gypsies in Italy and elsewhere. The truth is that they have not intention even to do something against an EU member state on this matter. Also, and you can bet your bottom dollar on that one, Italy would claim interference in internal political issues.

On June 6, 2008 in Rome a Roma Gypsy camp that houses 120 people, including 40 children, was being dismantled by Italian authorities.

A resident, a Gypsy woman who migrated from the former Yugoslavia 20 years ago. "Where are we supposed to go?" she asked. "They say we are all thieves, but I work as a cleaner." Her home was described in a news report with reference to the camp and its imminent destruction as equipped with cupboards, a sink and a stove, "neat and well kept, in contrast to the dusty squalor outside."

Her husband said: "This government is stoking up fear. Most people in this camp are refugees from the Balkans. We are used as scapegoats when what we need are jobs, housing, and status."

Gypsies are always used as scapegoats. This is the same in Italy as elsewhere, and especially in times where the Jews cannot – as yet – be added to the scapegoat pile. The Gypsy will, therefore, have to do, and that is why they will hit the Gypsy double hard for the moment.

About 40 caravans and tents were being dismantled near the capital's Tiber river in the neighbourhood of Testaccio despite protests from the residents.

Many of the inhabitants of the camp had reportedly been transferred from a camp in the area of Saxa Rubra, also previously dismantled.

"This eviction is particularly scandalous because the people concerned are Italian citizens. They are Kalderash Roma who used to live in the Campo Boario with the city government's approval," said Isabella Clough-Marinaro, a sociologist and Roma expert from the American University of Rome.

As we, can, therefore, see, this is not just an action against illegal immigrants and some criminal elements amongst the Roma, but the actions have now been widened to include Roma with Italian citizenship.

Tell me again that it is not just anti-Gypsy actions by a fascist government, the government of a European Union member state, targeting all those of Romani origin, a nation-wide ethnic cleansing. Maybe Italy should be suspended from the EU for its scandalous behaviour in the same way as Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth. Or is this the overture to something that is going to happen in other EU member states against Gypsies soon as well?

So, what are we, the Romani People, are going to do about this? Oh, I know what some will suggest... pretend to be Italians or Greece or Spanish, like so many Sinti in Germany pretend to and try to hide under such guises. We are Gypsy and we should be proud of it and fight this. Yes, I do say “fight it”. What is needed is action, maybe, direct action, even.

© M Smith (Veshengro), June 2008