Italy: The Persecution of the Roma People
By Roberto Malini, Dario Picciau, Matteo Pegoraro
EveryOne Group is sounding the umpteenth alarm about the persecution of the Roma people in Italy. The group will soon be presenting a new dossier to the European institutions and authorities concerning the abuse carried out on a daily basis, in violation of EU directives, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ethical and moral laws that should be at the root of civil society.
We will remind you that EveryOne Group is not only made up of activists. Among its ranks are authors of historical essays, research, documentaries, films, educational projects concerning the Holocaust, the persecutions, the genocides and violations of human rights which have characterised the history of man. These members are therefore fully-trained and competent for evaluating the reappearance of racist and xenophobic phenomena, and therefore this analysis, which throws light on a tragic humanitarian emergency and should be considered with due attention and gravity before it is too late.
The declaration of Jacques Barrot, the European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, according to which “The measures being carried out by Italy to tackle the Roma emergency do not violate EU law” (declaration immediately taken up and exploited by the Italian
Government) is based on a total lack of understanding about what is going on in Italy. Mr Barrot’s statement represents a dangerous precedent; permitting actions which not only human rights organizations, but also witnesses of the Holocaust consider so inhumane and full of racial hatred as to be comparable to the operations of ethnic cleansing carried out by National Socialism and fascism in the years of the racial laws.
EveryOne, (considering that the social services treat the Roma as invisible people) is at present forced to carry out humanitarian interventions in very difficult conditions, obstructed by both central and local institutions, in order to save human lives that are in danger, and to prevent camp clearances of Roma families. Families whose members are often in poor health or small children, and who more and more are becoming the target of threats, discrimination and racial hatred.
We wish to express our great concern about the methods being carried out by the EU institutions to restore a respect for human rights and the EU laws in Italy. While it is true that the EU Parliament has approved resolutions and has issued warnings in order to oblige the Italian Government and local authorities to respect human rights by stopping their repressive actions and setting up programmes for integration, it is just as true that there has been no follow-up or sanctions of any kind. This has allowed the Italian government and local authorities to continue, without qualms and limits, its operations of ethnic cleansing.
Even more worrying is the difficulty of the EU institutions in monitoring the situation of the Roma people originating from Romania - people persecuted in Italy systematically and with cruelty (often with physical violence, threats, destruction of their ID papers and personal belongings; continually kicked out of makeshift shelters they have set up under bridges, in parks, abandoned buildings, and dumping grounds, without them being offered alternative lodgings or assistance).
So much so, that amidst the indifference of other EU Member States, Romanian EU citizens of the Roma ethnic group have been forced to abandon Italy and take refuge in more democratic countries. The numbers, accurately and unjustly withheld, speak quite clearly: eighteen months ago there were about 40,000 Roma of Romanian origin living in Italy; less than 5,000 of them remain and these are the most vulnerable families, trapped in our countries because they don’t have the means to leave.
We take this opportunity to thank the Spanish Government and local authorities for taking in over 10,000 Romanian Roma fleeing from Italy; and France, Portugal and Greece who have taken in several thousand; as well as Romania which has facilitated the re-entry of thousands of other Roma people persecuted in Italy. We notice, however, that the ill-omened example offered by Italy is having a certain influence on other countries where Roma citizens live, among them Romania itself, a country which is seeing a return of intolerance towards “gypsies”.
We would also like to point out how the Italian Government made a mockery of the European Parliament resolutions (even ridiculing them in public); the warnings issued by the United Nations; the Catholic Church and the major human rights organizations, and has continued its oppressive and discriminatory measures, urging all the local authorities to carry out purges aimed at the Roma people.
In the same way, the Italian institutions, authorities and media (in Italy the press receives large sums of money from the Government which leads to heavy control over information) have deliberately ignored the racist alarm from figures of a certain repute and elevated morality, such as Juan de Dios Ramírez Heredia, Piero Terracina, Nedo Fiano, Tamara Deuel, Marcel Courthiade, Moni Ovadia, and Jeanne Gamonet, Saimir Mile, who are experts in the dynamics of racism and persecutions through history.
The fact that the instruments the EU has at its disposition – resolutions and warnings – have proved ineffective, has raised serious concerns about the moral strength of the Union itself, and its ability to preserve democracy, civil attitudes and a respect for the basic human rights. Soon a delegation from the European Parliament will be returning to Italy for the umpteenth time, to visit some Roma settlements. These visits, in our opinion, should take in other places in Italy and not just Rome, where the families are subjected to all kinds of intimidation and blackmail.
The representatives of the European Parliament should also be allowed to listen to the testimony of some witnesses of this cultural genocide: testimonies chosen from the Romanian Roma, victims of the abuse; Roma citizens from the former Yugoslavia (who have never been inserted into serious integration programmes or been offered help in obtaining legal papers); testimony from Italian “gypsies” – Roma and Sinti – constantly subjected to injustice and discrimination; Roma parents who have had their children taken off them unjustly; Roma who have suffered physical injury and inhumane treatment; the stories of the Roma who have fled Italy and been taken in by more welcoming countries.
An appeal for emancipation and justice which the European Union has to reply to
EveryOne Group is able to collaborate in the organization of a visit to Italy, or in a meeting at the European Parliament of Roma witnesses, victims of the persecution in Italy, or even an interview of the witnesses through telephone link-up (teleconference).
Very little has been done in Italy to help the Roma people, in fact their average life-span is less than 40 and their infant mortality rate is 15 times higher than the European average. Over the last two years, however, their marginalization has turned to tragic persecution. A persecution being carried out by the institutions, the police force and groups of racists, all taking place on a national level, but which is branching out into local areas, supported – as it is easy to see – by the press, the TV and local and national radio stations. The damage this long-term oppression has brought about to the Roma people is horrifying, and it is no exaggeration to speak and write about crimes against humanity which last year we officially reported to the International Criminal Court of the Hague.
There were between 150, 000 to 180,000 Roma living in Italy a year ago, today there are fewer than 70,000.
EveryOne Group will continue to fight with all its energy to protect the Roma people from a humanitarian tragedy which is worsening all the time, in the hope of seeing the day of emancipation and justice. Our organisation often intervenes in the field to provide assistance in individual human cases, lives saved from desperation. At the same time the group is fighting for the social recognition of Roma citizens in Italy and the European Union (through the approval, we hope, of the “Frame Charter of the Roma People in the European Union”, (we will be sending you a copy of the charter shortly).
Nevertheless, we fear that the barbarization of the institutions and a large majority of the Italian people (influenced by a long political and media campaign of racist propaganda) and the indifference shown by the European union may lead to more widespread racist phenomena: the return of the Samudaripen, the Holocaust of the Roma people.
We feel it necessary to repair this serious crisis in human rights by introducing clear laws to protect a people that has been persecuted for too long.
It is necessary to prevent – at the source – politicians and parties with racist or fascist leanings being able to carry out an electoral campaign based on racial hatred, passing their measures off as a “security emergency” – otherwise what happened in Italy could be well be repeated in other Member States of the Union.
It is necessary to ensure the Roma people have equal rights along with other nations, and that – as happened with the Jews – Europe recognises its role in their persecution and takes measures to ensure true emancipation.
It is necessary to punish severely the racist propaganda underway, because if the newspapers and the Italian TV channels were to write of the Jews or other ethnic minorities the way they write about the Roma, offering public opinion all kinds of prejudice and lies, then public opinion, political parties and civil society would rise up from all corners of the world. It is important to remind each and every one of you of what happened in darker times, a period we have to break away from in order to progress. It is important not to underestimate that racism and persecution always thrive off the indifference and lethargy of the world.
We hope this message, which sums up a reality that anyone is able to verify, in every city and every town of Italy, reaches you quite clearly. If some of you are able to understand the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in, a situation that risks questioning European civilization itself; then help us, help the Roma people; listen to a heart-rending cry for justice, join in the appeals for emancipation and brotherhood and prevent our continent sinking once more into darkness where human rights and public spirit are concerned.
Prepared by EveryOne Group
The European Parliament
The European Commission
The Council of Europe
The United Nations
Politicians and figures of international culture Humanitarian organizations
the men and women who still believe in a Europe of human rights and brotherhood
Roberto Malini, Dario Picciau, Matteo Pegoraro
Tel: (+ 39) 334 3449180 - (+ 39) 331 8429527 www.everyonegroup.com :: email@example.com