Italy: Afraid of enjoying their rights: eviction of the Roma in Cagliari

As often reported, one of the main issues Roma face in Italy is eviction from so called “nomad camps” - whether authorised by public authorities or not, it makes little difference. Research has mostly concentrated on major Italian cities, i.e. Milan, Rome, Naples, but the reality of Cagliari, capital and largest city of Sardinia, is also interesting, as there are good examples of proper integration. However, the story that should be told is slightly different. If one reads between the lines, it becomes clear that despite the good intentions, it is once again an “us” vs. “them” story.

For 18 years 157 Roma (some of which have lived in Italy for over 40 years) have been living in a camp on the 554 route, right outside Cagliari. This location was meant to be temporary, therefore facilities were never appropriate for long term stays. One can easily imagine the conditions which the families have had to endure: lack of proper maintenance for the sewage system, inefficient garbage disposal, and overall unsanitary living conditions. Yet, all children attend school, some have successfully graduated from high school and have expressed the wish to attend university.

Due to the poor hygienic conditions, and after consultations with the Roma representatives, it was decided that the Roma camp is to be dismantled. As of 2 July 2012, according to a decree adopted by the left-wing mayor, all Roma living in the camp will be moved to alternative locations. There would not be so much of a problem, then. However, Roma representatives have clearly expressed the wish not to be placed in houses. On local tv news, during an interview, they have stated they prefer to live in camps because that is what they are used to, because their children like to play out in the open, and they have claimed that to be placed in homes would make them feel jailed.

However, in one of the meetings to which a delegate of the mayor took part and to which many Roma representatives and their families participated, it emerged that one of the issues is their fear that, if they are placed in homes, they will face the anger of the local majority population for having been “robbed” of public housing it better deserves. They are also afraid of being unable to pay the rent once the municipality stops providing financial aid - they all work, but with few exceptions they do face difficulties, because there are overall very few job opportunities (Sardinia is an impoverished region, facing a tremendous time due to the credit crunch), and even less so for the members of a minority so badly discriminated.

A prime time regional tv debate will look into the issue on 14 June 2012 on the local tv channel. Local organisations working with the Roma are also following the issue. It will be interesting to see how the issue unfolds and what solution is found, and how both Roma and majority population will react and interact.

Photo: Roma dwelling in a camp in Italy. Credit: European Roma Rights Centre

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Date: 12/06/2012




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