Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - Italy

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 6 July 2011
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - Italy, 6 July 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e16d36d73.html [accessed 21 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The poor treatment accorded to Roma and migrants by the Italian authorities prompted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to undertake her first ever country visit in 2010. On 11 March, the same day the UN human rights chief visited Italy, Amnesty International published a report examining the 'Nomad Plan', a scheme developed under the 2008 'Nomad Emergency' presidential decree which allows forced evictions of Roma and resettlement to camps on the outskirts of Rome. Amnesty found the plan discriminatory and in violation of the housing rights of Roma, who were not consulted before evictions started in July 2009. According to the report, under the plan an estimated 6,000 Roma are to be resettled into just 13 camps, and over 100 settlements are to be dismantled. The major demolition of Roma camps could leave as many as 1,000 Roma homeless.

In January, Italian police began evicting Roma from one of the largest and oldest camps in Europe. The Castilio 900 camp in Rome has been in existence for over 40 years and is home to 600 people. While some welcomed the prospect of better housing conditions, many did not want to leave. Voice of America quoted a Roma woman who had lived in Castilio 900 for 35 years and who said, 'My grandchildren live here as well and what they are doing is not right. It's not right that they are creating problems among us.' During her visit, the UN High Commissioner visited authorized Roma camps on the outskirts of Rome and commented with dismay, 'I am profoundly shocked by the conditions of the camps. [...] For a moment I thought I was in one of the poorest developing countries and not in one of the richest nations in the world', she said. Improving the living conditions of many Roma would be welcomed, given that many have been living without running water and basic hygiene. But as the Italy expert at Amnesty International stated, '[T]he situation is the result of years of neglect, inadequate policies and discrimination by successive administrations. [The] plan is incomplete and risks making the situation for many other Roma even worse. It is the wrong answer.'

The UN High Commissioner raised her concern regarding 'the excessive resort to repressive measures such as police surveillance and forced evictions', but such practices continued throughout the year. In Milan alone, at least 61 forced evictions took place, rendering many Sinti and Roma homeless. Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni was also active in lobbying the EU for permission to expel Roma and announced in August that he would push for endorsement to expel citizens of other EU countries who 'are a burden on the social welfare system hosting them'. When opposition parties accused him of racism and discrimination, Maroni commented that the policy would apply to all non-Italian citizens.

During September and October, further camps were dismantled in Rome and Milan. As with neighbouring France, rising rates of crime was the rationale for the bulldozing of hundreds of small, impromptu camps inhabited by new immigrants, and the eviction of Triboniano, Milan's largest authorized Roma camp. A landmark decision in the case COHRE v. Italy delivered by the Council of Europe's European Committee of Social Rights may call a halt to forced evictions. On 3 November, the Committee found Italy in violation of the prohibition on discrimination, and in violation of the rights of Roma people to adequate housing; social, legal and economic protection; protection against poverty and social exclusion; and the right of migrant Roma families to protection and assistance. The destruction of camps was condemned, as were the illegal evictions that had been enforced without notice, and without offering alternative housing.

In the city of Rosarno, some 320 African migrants were taken to an emergency centre in the aftermath of two days of rioting after injuries were inflicted on two immigrants by a group of local youth using air rifles. Human rights groups and the opposition criticized Italy's migration policies, raising their concerns that the violence revealed the consequences of long-term xenophobic and anti-immigrant discourse that had fuelled prejudice and tensions between migrants and the local population. Jorge Bustamante and Githu Muigai, respectively the UN Special Rapporteurs on the human rights of migrants and on contemporary forms of racism, issued a joint statement on the unrest stating, 'Violence, be it perpetrated by Italians or migrant workers, must be addressed in the most vigorous manner through the rule of law and human rights should always be protected, regardless of immigration laws.' Just a month later, racial violence broke out again, this time in Milan after the stabbing of a young Egyptian man, allegedly by a South American. The anti-immigrant Northern League responded with xenophobic comments and steadily increased its popularity, gaining important seats in the 2010 local and regional elections.

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