Gypsy People in Italy in Peril

Everyone Group issues SOS to the European Union and the United Nations

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Everyone Group and others are launching a desperate SOS: an appeal to the European Union and the United Nations to intervene and save the Romani people in Italy from ethnic persecution.

Milan, January 2010: The Milanese authorities have bulldozed 80 makeshift shelters, home to a community of Romani families, and totally destroyed their blankets, warm winter clothes, stoves for heating and essential medicines. The forced eviction took place in Via Sant'Arialdo - near the Chiaravalle Abbey – in a racist and cruel Milan that the author of this report, (who was born in Milan) fails to recognise as the chief town he has admired for decades for its spirit of solidarity and open-mindedness. About 150 citizens of Romani origin, including children, pregnant women and sick people (many of them with cancer, heart problems, and handicaps) were thrown out onto the street and forced to set off on a tragic march to nowhere.

“It felt as though we had returned to the Hitler years,” commented a woman who lives in the area and who has often helped these families in difficulty. “Fortunately – after noticing the municipal police patrols driving up and down – many of the families left the settlement before the clearance began in order to avoid being charged for squatting and suffering the humiliation of the ethnic profiling that other families have been subjected to. However, their homes, makeshift shelters made from wood, plastic and cardboard, no longer exist”.

Ninety-five Romanian Roma were charged with illegally occupying a plot of land and are undergoing mass expulsion as the authorities have ordered them to leave the city: a reminder of the way the Gyosy were forced to leave centuries ago and during the pre-Holocaust years.

The January 21st pogrom (what else do we call the destruction in mid-winter of 80 makeshift homes, shelter to hundreds of human beings living in extreme poverty and bad health?) and mass expulsion (what else do we call the unlawful forced eviction of innocent families from the city they have lived in for years without the offer of any social aid or alternative lodgings?) is the umpteenth violation of human rights that has taken place in Italy. 150 vulnerable people in poor health are now wandering around in search of a new shelter in an attempt to prevent themselves dying of hunger, cold, infections and racial violence.

The police operation was carried out on the order of the local authorities, and was initiated by the deputy mayor, Riccardo De Corato, a politician who is responsible for numerous other measures of persecution against the Romani people and unfortunate immigrants.

The operation called for the deployment of 102 police officers from the local police force.

De Corato has expressed his satisfaction at this deliberately-induced humanitarian crisis, and has announced yet another camp clearance in Milan, in Via Vaiano Valle - the site of more makeshift huts where other marginalized, discriminated against and desperate families live. But the list is long: over the last two years more than 7,000 people from the Romani ethnic group have been forcibly evicted from their settlements in Milan without the offer of alternative housing.

Unfortunately, both the administration of the Mayor, Letizia Moratti, and the centre-left opposition are driven by intolerant and anti-Gypsy sentiments. As a result the tragic police operations are taking place with the blessing of all the political parties, government associations and local authority consultants. At the same time, the activists who are attempting with non-violent means to stop the brutal evictions are being intimated and threatened by the same institutions.

After learning of the terrible sanitary and social consequences of the police operation, EveryOne Group (which has lost all contact with the Roma left homeless during the Sant'Arialdo eviction) is today presenting a complete report on this tragic episode to the European Commission, the European Council, the European Court of Human Rights, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the International Criminal Court of the Hague. These operations are pushing Europe back to the days of the racial laws and ethnic persecution. EveryOne Group is appealing for urgent intervention, something more effective than a resolution or a letter of warning which have no legal bearing, and which the Italian institutions in the past have already shown to ignore and even mock. EveryOne Group, together with the committee against intolerance, “Sa Phrala”; the association for human culture, “Watching the Sky”; and the 586 anti-racist organizations that make up the “United” network are sending out a dramatic and desperate SOS to the international authorities, asking them to help the persecuted Roma people, who are being wiped out and expelled in mass from Milan and Italy.
We have to act immediately, because over the last two years the Roma community has fallen from 180,000 units to only 40,000 human beings.

This number includes the Italian Roma and those who fled from the former Yugoslavia, who are being profiled, rounded up into authentic ghettoes with round-the-clock surveillance and specially-created ethnic laws. We are talking about human beings who are being hunted out; subjected to brutality and racial violence; excluded from employment and integration programs and left in appalling sanitary and social conditions.

This appeal has been sent to the European Commission, the European Council, the European Court of Human Rights, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the International Criminal Court of the Hague. It has also been circulated to Romanii Human Rights organizations and others.

The outcome and response will show, and I am not holding my breath to any response, at least not of one of action against the Italian authorities, how much value is placed on the lives and conditions of the Romani-Gypsy in Italy, and elsewhere in the European Union, by the European Union bodies and international bodies such as the United Nations.

From all what has gone before it is a foregone conclusion that, aside from maybe, if we are lucky, a statement by the Council of Europe and others, none of which will be binding to the Italian authorities, nothing is going to happen.

Gypsies are not on the agenda proper and never will be. I fact, the way it appears to me we are on the removal agenda, the “needing to be gotten rid off” agenda.

Europe of the early twenty-first century looks more like Europe of seventy years ago than even. The specter of Black Legions is haunting the countries of the European Union once again, with Italy presently in the lead, and others following just a little behind.

When the Gypsy Union and the IRG warned years ago that the writing was on the wall as to what the European Union was going to be up to as far as the Romani-Gypsy is concerned everyone laughed and claimed that the EU was the best thing ever for the Romani. I think we are being shown who was right now, unfortunately.

One would have hoped that this was a thing of the distant past and never ever to rear its ugly head again but by the mid- to late 1990s it was becoming clear what was happening, at least clear to those that could see it. Now, only the blind will deny that the EU is aiming to ethnically cleanse the Gypsy from its books.

© 2010