Italy cracks down on its Roma community

World Today

Thousands of the traditionally nomadic ethnic group are at risk of being driven out of their homes and camps. The Interior Minister is calling for non-Italian Romas to be sent back to their countries of origin.

As CGTN’s Michal Bardavid reports from Rome, rights groups are alarmed.

The entrance of a Roma camp is safeguarded by a police car. Outsiders are clearly not welcome as police officers warn of dangers beyond the gate.

The Roma community in Italy live in such seclusion. They feel unwanted and in need to protect their own boundaries.

According to the 21 July Association, that works with Roma people, there are 127 camps in 74 cities across Italy where the Roma communities live.

The country’s Interior Ministry wants to eventually close all of them, starting with illegal settlements first and then shutting down authorized camps as well, where they would re-settle is still a question mark.

Aurora Sordini, is a lawyer advocating human rights for the Roma community in Italy with the 21 July Association. She stresses that the government must first present viable solutions.

“We, as Association July 21, are also strongly convinced that the camps should be shut down, but not by forced eviction and not without any kind of alternative solution that includes paths for housing, employment, health, and education,” said Sordini.

Salvanovic Dzemila is part of the Roma community. She works as a cultural mediator for the July 21 Association and says she personally experiences the pain

“There is a lot of racism. In recent times, there has been more racism against the Roma people. There is more fear. We do not know what can happen. We do not know the plan for the future. We feel like we are unstable,” said Dzemila.

The locations of the camps also make life even more challenging for the Roma.

“From buses to hospitals, they are far from all public services because they’re situated at the edge of the city. It’s difficult for those who do not have cars and those who are sick and unable to reach the city easily. They always have to depend on someone else,” said Dzemila.

There are many such difficulties for the Roma in Italy such as financial stability, discrimination and potential risk of losing their makeshift homes.

And with the Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration rhetoric going strong, more challenging days are likely ahead for the Roma communities struggling in Italy.