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Roma, Sinti and Housing policy in Italy

"Campland" Policies Challenged before Europe's Premiere Social Rights Body

Bolzano / Bozen, 22 december 2004

The old Roma camp in Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy (1995)The European Committee of Social Rights has this week ruled admissible a Collective Complaint against Italy, lodged by the European Roma Rights Center, contending that by policy and practice, Italy racially segregates Roma in the field of housing. The Committee will proceed to review, in early 2005, Italian housing policies as they relate to Roma, to determine whether they comply with Italy's obligations under the Revised European Social Charter.

Housing arrangements for Roma in Italy aim at separating Roma from the mainstream of Italian society and holding them in artificial exclusion. As such, they block possibilities for integration and subject Roma to the very serious harm of segregation on racial grounds. In a number of Romani settlements in Italy, very extremely inadequate housing conditions prevail, threatening the health and even the lives of their Romani inhabitants.

In addition, Italian authorities regularly and systematically subject Roma to forced evictions from housing, calling seriously into question Italy's compliance with a number of international laws. During eviction raids, authorities arbitrarily destroy property belonging to Roma, use abusive language, and otherwise humiliate evictees. In many cases, persons expelled from housing have been rendered homeless as a result of actions by police and local authorities. In some instances, in the course of such evictions, Roma have been collectively expelled from Italy. A very significant part of Italy's Romani population lives under constant threat of forced eviction.

The Collective Complaint, lodged in June 2004 by the ERRC, working together with a number of local partners, is the result of six years of documentation work undertaken by the ERRC into the human rights situation of Roma in Italy. Speaking on the occasion of the decision, ERRC Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova said, "Our work on Italy has been constantly thwarted by an institutional environment totally impervious to human rights change. We turned to the Committee because despite repeated challenges to racist housing policies, the Italian government has failed utterly to undertake any meaningful changes."

The Society for threatened peoples (STP) supports the denunciation carried out from the ERRC and sentence without appeal the situation of discrimination in which Sinti and Roma in Italy live. The STP asks moreover that Italy could arrive finally to the acknowledgment of Sinti and Roma as ethnic minorities, what that would facilitate an integration respectful of the cultural specificities of the two ethnic groups.

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