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Assessment for Roma in Italy

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Roma in Italy, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 22 February 2018]
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.
Italy Facts
Area:    116,303 sq. km.
Capital:    Rome
Total Population:    56,783,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

Based on their historical experience, Roma throughout Europe tend to avoid confrontation with authorities and migrate when threatened. There is no present basis among the Roma of Italy for militant political action. While the Roma rarely engaged in protest in the past they do possess several factors that establish a potential for protest: they are targets of discrimination, political and cultural restrictions, and acts of repression. What they lack is the cohesion and political organization necessary for campaigns of political action. Limited media coverage of their situation, and of attacks on them, may contribute to the fact that anti-Roma prejudice and active discrimination remain a festering problem in Italy. As elsewhere in Europe, the Roma's economic, social and political disadvantages serve as both cause and consequence of the prejudice and discrimination of dominant groups against them.

Analytic Summary

The Roma first arrived in Italy in the 1400s (TRADITN = 1) and have since spread throughout the country (GROUPCON = 0) in search of economic opportunities (MIGRANT = 3). While the Roma differ from other Italians linguistically (LANG = 2) it is their lifeways (CUSTOM = 1) and physical appearance (RACE = 3) that identify them as Roma and has led to stigmatization and discrimination against them. As is the case elsewhere in Europe there is considerable prejudice against the Roma in Italy. They are stereotyped as lazy thieves and beggars who are leeches on society.

The group faces considerable demographic stress (DEMSTR00 = 6) as a result of higher birth rates and poor health conditions (DMSICK03 = 3) compared to the rest of the country. There is also a considerable influx of Roma into Italy from East Central Europe, which makes a bad situation worse. Politically and economically they are marginalized from Italian society (POLDIS03 = 3 and ECODIS03 = 3). While the Roma do not face cultural restrictions, racism toward them is widespread and recently the Italian government has attempted to restrict their movements and to dictate where they can live.

The Roma in Italy have also been subjected to overt government repression, ranging from reports of many group members being arrested and tortured while in custody, to destruction of their property including homes. The mayor of one town reportedly ordered local farmers to spray Roma houses with manure. Beyond government repression, Italians have protested against the presence of the group in their community and called for the separation of Romani children in schools (GCC1X03 = 1).

Despite the bad conditions under which the Roma live they lack political organizations (COHESX9 = 3). Each Roma clan or extended family appears to act independently from the next. The only group that provides advocacy for the Roma in Italy is the European Roma Rights Center, which actively lobbies the Italian government and reports on abuses against the group.

A major Roma grievance is with the government's policy of creating Roma ghettos with unsatisfactory living environments. They are also concerned with the quality of education that their children receive. The Italian government has created Roma schools but has found it difficult to staff them with qualified teachers. The Roma also seek better economic opportunities and protection from day-to-day prejudice and community harassment.

While the Roma's situation in Italy is poor, they have virtually never used political action to call attention to their plight. Only in 1995 was there an act of overt Roma protest (PROT95 = 3), directed against the country's immigration laws. No militant activities have been attributed to the Roma, past or present.


Lexis/Nexis: US Department of State Human Rights Reports for 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1994 (all published the February following the year which they cover.)

Lexis/Nexis: All news files: 1990-2003.

European Roma Rights Centre

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