Italy and the Rom

by Michael Smith

The period of 2008-2009 will be remembered by Romani rights and human rights activists for the extremely troublesome situation of Romani-Gypsy communities in Italy.

Increasing racism and anti-Romani sentiment erupted in Naples and Milan in May 2008, culminating in firebomb attacks on Gypsy camps in the area. The camps were allowed to burn while the Carabinieri, so it is understood, even prevent firefighters from entering.

In addition to that, various legal measures and policies have been adopted by the public authorities, such as the ongoing “census” of the Romani population and the transportation of Roma to special camps even further from city centres in order to “sanitise” urban areas, are outright abuses of individual freedoms and rights. Those so-called “Solidarity Villages” are being guarded by special anti-terrorist units of the Carabinieri which, we must not forget, are not ordinari police but military police.

Growing fear and hatred of Gypsies among the general population on the one hand and the hostile approach of the national government and some local administrations on the other created a witch hunt atmosphere directed against even long-established Roma and Sinti Italian citizens as well as newly arriving Romani migrants.

Reports had it that even Roma and Sinti of Italian citizenship were fleeing from the Tyrolean areas into Austria. Not that they will be accepted as refugees now.

It is true that the problems of the Rom are not limited to Italy only. The Romani People are struggling to cope with physical violence, segregation and other forms of discrimination all over Europe. The uniqueness of the Italian case is that the Government at its highest levels has made a policy of promoting racial animosity and xenophobia, and even children have been indoctrinated against Gypsies in that they do not want to have them as classmates in schools and children as young as eight have been making comments to the media that Gypsies should be removed from Italy. Welcome to the New Europe!

And what are the Council of Europe and European Commission, who are basically the controllers of the European Union and the European Parliament, doing about this? Nothing, to be precise and as a Gypsy one can be but left wondering as to whether this is in fact a policy if the New Europe, namely to ethnically cleanse Europe of the Gypsy.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009