Salvini targets Roma communities
Italy’s far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has circulated an order for his Interior Ministry’s provincial offices to “report on the presence of Roma, Sinti and Camminanti settlements” in the next fortnight.
“The aim is to verify the presence of illegal camps to draw up an eviction plan,” Salvini’s ministry said.
The Roma, Sinti and Camminanti are traditionally nomadic ethnic groups that have lived in Europe for centuries.
The Council of Europe says Italy has one of the lowest concentrations of these groups in the EU, with a population of below 180,000 and more than half have Italian citizenship and regular jobs.
But hate crimes and discrimination against Roma, Sinti, and Camminanti are common, particularly those in unofficial, poor settlements.
This week hundreds of riot police cleared an abandoned school in the outskirts of Rome occupied mainly by migrants. Migrants and squatters set fire to tyres, mattresses and rubbish to hamper the eviction but police eventually forced them out.
About 26,000 members of the migrant communities were living in emergency shelters or camps in 2017, according to the NGO Associazione 21 Luglio.
The pro-Roma group said it was “deeply worried” by Salvini’s order, which it was “a measure which clearly discriminates against these communities, since it does not affect, for example, formal or informal settlements inhabited by people not belonging to these ethnic groups”.
The firebrand interior minister called for non-Italians in Roma, Sinti and Camminanti communities to be “sent back to their countries of origin”.
An estimated 25,000 Roma, Sinti and Caminanti live in conditions of “housing segregation”, according to the anti-discrimination NGO, which accused the authorities of maintaining “ethnic ghettos”.
The Association of July 21 said Italy had been dubbed “the country of camps” because in the last two decades it had been the most active in planning and creating outdoor camps where the Roma community has been “segregated on ethnic grounds”.
The populist Lega party leader has closed down refugee camps and stopped migrant rescue vessels from using Italian ports.
Threats against the Roma and Sinti have increased under Salvini, who sparked controversy in 2018 with his call for a new census of Roma, and for all non-Italians in the community to be expelled.
The Sinti are traditionally from western and central Europe and the Roma have origins in the east and southeast of Europe.
The Caminanti are believed to come from the Norman occupation of Sicily in the Dark Ages.
About 15,000 members of the three groups live in 127 formal settlements in Italy, often in the outskirts of large urban areas.
There are about 300 informal settlements in Rome containing a few families, the Associazione 21 Luglio said.
Italy’s minorities face growing discrimination. Picture credit: Flickr