Culture And Media

Italy: Government moves to dismantle Gypsy camp

Rome, 6 June (AKI) - A Roma Gypsy camp that houses 120 people, including 40 children, was being dismantled by Italian authorities in Rome on Friday.

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 in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

"When they were evicted from there in 2006, the city government said it would find them a decent alternative location. So far, no such alternative has been found."

Recently, the new conservative Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi issued a number of security measures, keeping an electoral pledge to clamp down on illegal immigration and crime.

According to the left-wing Italian politician, Rita Bernardini, the government's latest move is in clear violation of the United Nations' International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

"The dismantling of the camp in Testaccio violates the (treaty)....ratified by Italy.....which forbids the dismantling without providing people alternative housing," said Bernardini, opposition politician and joint-Chairwoman of the Italian Radicals Party.

The city's new Roma commissioner, Carlo Mosca, said on Friday that the Roma Gypsies would be 'monitored', and a 'census' would be carried out.

In an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica on Friday, Mosca said that Roma Gypsies would also be fingerprinted and photographed and this would allow the authorities to identify them.

Responding to Mosca's comments, Clough-Marinaro said that the census of Roma camps would be discriminatory because it targets a single ethnic group for special surveillance and security measures.

"Its main purpose is to scare the Roma into leaving the city and to prepare the ground for mass deportations," she told AKI.

Mosca was appointed as special Roma Gypsy commissioner for Rome and surrounding areas. His new powers include the power to move Roma Gypsy camps and to keep legal Gypsies under surveillance.

Mosca concluded saying that no new camps would be created but it was unclear whether he referred to legal or illegal camps.

"We do not intend to create new discomfort in other areas and provinces outside Rome. We must solve the problem with what we already have and not create new settlements that can spark new protests," concluded Mosca.

In May police had to evacuate two Roma Gypsy camps in the low-income Ponticello suburb of the southern city of Naples before it was torched by a mob.

The mob attacked the camp after a teenage Roma Gypsy girl allegedly attempted to kidnap an Italian baby.

Tens of thousands of Roma Gypsies have entered Italy in the past few years since Slovakia and Romania joined the European Union, and they are being blamed by many Italians for much of the recent rise in crime rates.

Many Roma Gypsies come from Romania and of the 150,000 Roma gypsies who live in Italy, about 70,000 have Italian citizenship.

Also, in the northern Italian city of Milan, a census was carried out on Friday in the camp of Via Impastato. All inhabitants were identified and will reportedly receive a card allowing access to the camp.

A protest to defend the rights of the Roma Gypsies and Sinti Gypsy community was scheduled to take place in Rome on Sunday.

Rights group Amnesty International and the Anti-Defamation League, both recently attacked Italy for its treatment of Roma Gypsies and illegal immigrants.




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