NEWS - Archive May 2008



27/5/2008- The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on the Italian government to “publicly condemn xenophobia against Roma,” following recent violence targeting the Roma community in Italy. “We urge the Italian government to publicly condemn xenophobia against Roma and the anti-Roma rhetoric that fosters an atmosphere in which attacks like those in Milan and Naples can be possible,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “Italy’s vibrant democracy will be strengthened by a clear message from the government that it is committed to protecting its Roma residents and all victims of hate violence.” In a letter to His Excellent Roberto Maroni, Italian Minister of Interior, Mr. Foxman noted that all countries share the common challenge of crafting a fair and workable immigration system while ensuring humane treatment of immigrants, adding: “Failure to speak out in this way could send the terribly wrong message to the entire community that perpetrators of xenophobic violence can act with impunity in Italy.” ADL, which has developed a variety of anti-bias education programs that sensitize law enforcement, civil society, youth and others, said it would welcome the opportunity to share these programs with the Italian government. The League has spoken out in the United States against the demonization and stereotyping of immigrants as part of America’s public debate on reforming its own immigration system. Earlier this month in Naples, angry residents burned down two Roma camps after allegations that a Roma teenager attempted to kidnap an Italian baby. Italian authorities have also recently implemented a security crackdown on street crime and illegal immigration, and are considering tougher immigration policies.
Anti-Defamation League



20/5/2008- Italy and Spain have quarrelled over Rome's plans to tighten up its immigration policies as part of a bid to tackle rising tensions among Italians towards migrants from Romania. Franco Frattini, Italy's foreign minister and former European commissioner for immigration, complained about comments on Italy's affairs made by leading politicians in Madrid, noting "Frankly, it's time to stop these [political] pitch invasions." "Declarations from ministers that interfere with the activities of a government elected by the Italian citizens are not acceptable, especially in areas like immigration which need close cooperation between Spain and Italy," Mr Frattini said in a radio interview. He reacted to earlier statements by Spain's deputy premier Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega who had said that the Spanish executive "rejects violence, racism and the xenophobia, and therefore cannot agree with what is happening in Italy." A pair of Mr Zapatero's ministers added fuel to the fire over the weekend, with the Spanish secretary of labour and immigration, Corbacho Celestine, saying Silvio Berlusconi "wants to criminalise those that are different." The statements came shortly after last week's attacks on Roma communities in Italy in which inhabitants of Naples set fire to camp-like homes of Roma families and forced them to flee. The violent move came after a report that a Roma girl allegedly attempted to kidnap a baby. The issue was one of the key political themes of the early parliamentary elections won by the centre-right leader Berlusconi, who tasked Roberto Maroni from the anti-immigrant Northern League to chair the interior affairs portfolio. "It is time to intervene with force to avoid episodes of the unjustifiable violence that we saw in Naples," Mr Maroni said in reaction to the incident, suggesting "firm measures" are needed to tackle the country's "security emergency."

European Commission spokesperson Pietro Petrucci said that Italy had not violated community laws "up to this moment", with regard to free movement of people, adding that the executive is "following the situation closely." The events in Italy have sparked critical comments from several European quarters, with MEPs due today (20 May) to debate the crackdowns on Roma in Italy and elsewhere across Europe. Hungarian liberal MEP and a Roma herself Viktoria Mohacsi visited gypsy camps outside Rome and Naples. According to Italy's AGI news agency, she said that she had been "frightened and filled with horror" by what she had seen. She referred to "[the] random night roundups, assault in prisons, gratuitous arrests and a general persecutory climate unworthy of a country which considers itself democratic." "The current situation in Italy is difficult," said the German chairperson of the European Parliament's Socialist group, Martin Schultz, adding, "But we don't want to conceal the fact that the issue of minority protection and integration of Roma in society is not a uniquely Italian problem in Europe."

Deja vu
The same discussion - also following violent attacks against Roma communities in Italy and after criticism in Romania against Rome's methods of tackling the problem - took place last autumn. Back in November, EU lawmakers adopted a resolution suggesting that a network of organisations deal with the social inclusion of Roma as well as promote the rights and duties of the Roma community. In addition, the then prime minister of Italy, centre-left leader Romano Prodi and his Romanian liberal counterpart Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, urged the European Commission to help EU countries cope with the integration of other member states' citizens - in particular of Roma origin. Brussels responded that most initiatives regarding Roma are already in place. On Tuesday, the EU executive and the Slovenian presidency are set to be asked the same question once again by MEPs.



The European Roma Policy Coalition calls for coordinated EU action based on European anti-discrimination legislation, social inclusion measures and the respect of human rights.

20/5/2008- As representatives of human rights, anti-discrimination, anti-racism, social inclusion and Roma rights organizations promoting values of human rights and democracy, we firmly condemn the recent attacks against the Roma community in Italy that were carried out by non-state actors, as well as the statements of discriminatory nature made by high ranking Italian politicians. We therefore urgently call on the Italian authorities to take action against anti-Roma discourses in Italian media and to stop anti-Roma discourses by politicians; and take all the necessary measures to provide protection to the Roma community and pursue their active inclusion in society. Furthermore, we request a prompt reaction by the European Commission and the European Council to these events.

Italy, a European Union Member State, is blatantly disregarding the values and principles of the Union as enshrined in Article 6 of the treaty establishing the European Union, by conducting arbitrary detentions with a view to facilitate expulsions, making provisions for discriminatory anti-Romani and anti-Romanian laws and measures and by fuelling racism through anti-Romani speech.
We are addressing this call to all EU institutions to condemn and take action against the anti-Romani hate speech and actions of discriminatory nature that contravene Italy’s non-discrimination obligations under European and international human rights law.

We call on the European Commission, as guardian of the treaties to do the utmost to ensure that the rights of EU citizens are being protected against state abuse perpetrated on grounds of ethnic or national origin. To come up with an EU Roma strategy aiming at making Roma inclusion an urgent priority, to provide leadership and coordination for Member States in their responsibility to ensure the respect for the rights of their Roma citizens.

Further, we call on the Members of the European Parliament to convene an emergency session and appoint a fact finding mission to review the planned discriminatory legal measures, instances of inciting racial hatred and fanatic anti-Romani behaviour in Italy. The European Parliament needs to condemn such acts and convey its position publicly.

Finally, we urge the Italian authorities as a matter of urgency to take all necessary steps to provide adequate protection to the Roma against such attacks and other acts of violence and ensure that an independent investigation is conducted into each attack carried out by non-state actors and state actors. Persons believed to be responsible for the violence should be brought to justice and adequate reparation, including compensation, made available to all victims and their families. We also call on the Italian authorities to refrain from engaging in racist speech against Roma persons, and to seek in every possible way to counteract violent anti-Roma sentiments in broader society.

We urge the EU member states to join up, coordinate measures towards social inclusion of Roma as the right way forward rather than further marginalizing and expelling Roma from one country to another. We urge the Commission to provide leadership and a coordination role for Members States in helping to ensure respect for the rights of their Roma citizens. We firmly believe that joint coordinated action by the EU has to set the standard, in order to avoid the bad and damaging examples set by Italy in these days. We call this approach the EU Roma Policy.

We commend the statements of the Spanish deputy premier, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega as an example for other European governments: "The government [of Spain] rejects violence, racism and xenophobia and does not support what is happening in Italy... [we] do not support the policy of expulsions without respect for the law and rights, or actions which exalt violence, racism and xenophobia."


Amnesty International, EU Office, Natalia Alonso, Deputy Director
European Roma Rights Centre, Vera Egenberger, Director
European Roma Information Office, Ivan Ivanov, Director
European Network for Anti Racism, Pascale Charon, Director
Open Society Institute, Brussels, Andre Wilkens, Director
Spolu International Foundation, Ruus Dijksterhuis , Director
Minority Rights Group, Mark Lattimer, Director
European Roma Grassroots Organisation, Valeriu Nicolae, Director
Roma Education Fund, Rumyan Russinov , Deputy Director
Fundacion Secretariado Gitano, Isidor Rodriguez, Director
email source



20/5/2008- The European Roma Information Office ERIO express its deep concern on the aggressive racial attacks against Roma people in Italy by members of the Italian society and on the passive position held by the Italian authorities. ERIO asks the Italian government to take urgent measures to stop Anti-Roma attacks and ensure security and protection to Roma communities. The latest violent cases against Roma carried out by non-state individuals as well as by police forces are clear signs of an organized anti-Roma action in Italy. On May 11 the Roma camp in via Novara, in Milan was put on fire with several Molotov cocktails bottles thrown by extremist groups. On May 13 anti-Roma riots exploded in the Ponticelli area in Naples, and several hundred Roma had to flee from their camps because of the violent attacks from angry local Italian citizens. These attacks were provoked by the alleged attempt of a Romani girl to kidnap a six-months old baby from its Italian parents. On May 12 and 13 a large scale arbitrary arrests of more than 400 Roma, that were registered and fingerprinted and obviously prepared for deportation, took place in Florence.

All these events and other incidents in different regions of Italy which took place last week are results of a long time tension between local Italians and Roma people, fostered by anti-Roma statements from high level politicians and State representatives. Italian decision makers and right wing extremist try to justify their anti-Roma attitude by an individual case transformed in collective responsibility. Therefore, the European Roma Information Office calls the Italian government to take urgent measures to stop Anti-Roma attacks and ensure security and protection to Roma communities. Ivan Ivanov, ERIO executive director, invites "the Italian police authorities to investigate and take legal action against those responsible for the violent attacks against Roma". The Roma community in Italy is mainly made up by European citizens. Therefore they should enjoy the same rights and protection against discrimination like other European citizens residing in Italy. So, while designing its immigration regulations, Italian government has to make sure that this legislation is in conformity with: the European Directive 2004/38 against discrimination, the Race Equality Directive 2000/43 EC , the EU Migration Package which will be adopted soon and other European human rights documents subscribed by Italy. Mr. Ivanov added that "the immigration package which is under elaboration in Italy should not lead to discrimination because the measures taken so far have disproportionate impact on Roma".

Italian government has to urgently adopt policies for the smooth integration of Roma communities and ensure for them equal access to education, employment, housing, health care and public services. In order to do this, Italy shall use the European funds provided for Roma integration. European Roma Information Office also asks the European Commission to ensure that the principle of equal treatment is strictly followed by each Member state, to adopt a horizontal approach concerning Roma' situation in Europe and to propose as soon as possible a specific European Roma policy. "Europe has to tackle anti-Gypsysm and discrimination in different policy fields - said Mr. Ivanov - including measures for Roma's integration, to establish effective monitoring in order to ensure full implementation of the anti-discrimination legislation at national level, and to guarantee the respect of human rights and equal treatment of Roma in accordance with the European legislation and basic principles". On the other hand, ERIO welcomes the today initiative of the European Parliament to debate on the situation of Roma in Italy and other EU countries. ERIO asks MEPs to find concrete proposals for the solution of the crises. ERIO also suggests to set up meetings with representatives of the Italian Parliament to discuss possible legislative measures concerning the living conditions of Roma.
The European Roma Information Office



19/5/2008- Today, in a letter addressed to the European Union and the European Parliament the European Roma and Travellers Forum expressed concern over the violent attack on the informal settlements in Italy in which hundreds of Roma have been forced to run off for fear of their life. “The recent events in Italy remind us of the Nazi and Fascist periods in the early 1930s, when Roma/Sinty and Jews were singled out for discrimination and persecution leading finally to the genocide of millions of innocent people” said Mr. Kawczynski, President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum. The European Roma and Travellers Forum calls upon the European Union and the European Parliament to take immediate and concrete actions for the protection and equal treatment of all EU citizen. Italian politicians and the media are blaming immigrants of Roma origin for the increase of criminality act in the country. Mr. Kawczynski maintains that “Criminal elements can be found in every sector of the population irrespective of ethnicity and social class. This does not mean that the whole sector – in this case the Roma - are criminals. Singling out the Roma community as main reason for the increase of criminality in Italy can only contribute toward increasing the tension and higher number of violent attacks”.

*The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF), which has a partnership agreement with the Council of Europe and a special status with this institution, is Europe’s largest and most inclusive Roma organisation. It brings together Europe’s main international Roma-NGOs and more than 1,500 national Roma organisations from most of the Council of Europe member states.
The European Roma and Travellers Forum



19/5/2008- The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) strongly condemns the violent attacks on Roma settlements in Italy last week and urges all relevant EU institutions to take action to denounce these events. Last week, a number of Roma settlements around Naples and Milan were set on fire by residents following reports of a Roma girl allegedly having attempted to steal a baby. ENAR is seriously concerned by the political and media discourse used in Italy to build a “Roma emergency”. The Italian authorities are conducting arbitrary detentions and expulsions, making provisions for discriminatory anti-Romani and anti-Romanian laws and measures and openly inciting its population to racially motivated violence. The Italian Interior Minister Mr. Roberto Maroni on 11 May stated that “all Roma camps will have to be dismantled, and the inhabitants will be either expelled or incarcerated”. It seems also that the Italian government is about to adopt a new security decree to control or expel immigrants, especially the Roma. These measures and the current xenophobic discourse are propagating prejudice and encouraging the double identification Roma/criminals. A recent opinion poll showed that 70% of Italians would like to “expel” the Roma from Italy, regardless of the fact that a little more than 50% of them are Italian nationals and 20% are EU citizens. Presenting the Roma as a threat to public security stigmatises an entire ethnic minority and goes against the very principles and values upon which the European Union is founded. ENAR therefore urgently calls on the Italian authorities to stop making anti-Roma discourses and to take all the necessary measures to ensure the protection of the Roma community. ENAR also urges all EU institutions to condemn and take action against the anti-Roma hate speech and discriminatory actions taken by Italian authorities.

ENAR President Mohammed Aziz said: “We are extremely worried by the anti-Roma and anti-immigrant rhetoric currently being used in Italy, resulting in the introduction of discriminatory measures and in fuelling racist sentiment. Italian and EU politicians must stand up to the EU commitment to fundamental rights and focus on promoting the social inclusion of Roma and implementing anti-discrimination policies.”
EUropean Network Against Racism



19/5/2008- Sixty-eight per cent of Italians, fuelled by often inflammatory attacks by the new rightwing government, want to see all of the country's 150,000 Gypsies, many of them Italian citizens, expelled, according to an opinion poll. The survey, published as mobs in Naples burned down Gypsy camps this week, revealed that the majority also wanted all Gypsy camps in Italy to be demolished. About 70,000 Gypsies in Italy hold Italian passports, including about 30,000 descended from 15th-century Gypsy settlers in the country. The remainder have arrived since, many fleeing the Balkans during the 1990s. Another 10,000 Gypsies came from Romania after it joined the European Union in January 2007, according to an Italian human rights organisation, EveryOne, part of the approximately half million Romanians believed to be in Italy. Romanians were among the 268 immigrants rounded up in a nationwide police crackdown on prostitution and drug dealing this week, after new prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's likening of foreign criminals to "an army of evil". But Romanian officials have sought to distinguish between the Romanians and Romanian Gypsies entering Italy. Flavio Tosi, the mayor of Verona and a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, said his city had the biggest Romanian community in Italy, 7,000 strong, "working as builders, artisans and domestics. And they themselves say the Roma are a problem," he said. In a second poll, 81% of Italian respondents said they found all Gypsies, Romanian or not, "barely likeable or not likeable at all", a greater number than the 61% who said they felt the same way about non-Gypsy Romanians.

Young Neapolitans who threw Molotov cocktails into a Naples Gypsy camp this week, after a girl was accused of trying to abduct a baby, bragged that they were undertaking "ethnic cleansing". A UN spokeswoman compared the scenes to the forced migration of Gypsies from the Balkans. "We never thought we'd see such images in Italy," said Laura Boldrini. "This hostility is a result of the generally inflammatory language of the current government, as well as the previous one," said EveryOne director Matteo Pegoraro. "Italian football stars at Milan teams assumed to have Gypsy heritage, such as Andrea Pirlo, are now also the subject of threatening chants." Commenting on the attacks in Naples, Umberto Bossi, the head of the Northern League party said: "People are going to do what the political class cannot." The defence minister, Ignazio La Russa, said yesterday he would consider deploying soldiers to Italian streets to help fight crime, while a group of Bosnian Gypsies in Rome said they were mounting night guard patrols of their camp to defend against vigilante attacks. Europe's leading human rights watchdog urged the government to prevent attacks on Roma communities. Christian Strohal, head of Vienna-based OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, said: "The current stigmatisation of Roma and immigrant groups in Italy is dangerous as it ... increases the potential for violence."
Romano vodi



14/5/2008- Rome's new conservative mayor Gianni Alemanno said on Wednesday he plans to appoint a special commissioner for the Roma Gypsies in the capital. "We floated the proposal to create a special Roma commissioner during the election campaign. In a few days this will become reality in the capital," Alemanno told Italy's Radio 24. "We are not talking about Sinti or fairground folk, but a growing invasion - it's an emergency," Alemanno said. "There are 16 million nomadic people living in Europe and if these mass movements are not controlled, there is the risk that all those people move from the poorest countries to those considered to be richer," Alemanno claimed. Alemanno's announcement followed Italy's new interior minister Roberto Maroni and Milan's mayor Letizia Moratti's agreement on Tuesday to create a special commissioner for the Roma Gypsies in Milan. A government official, the prefect of Milan, will be appointed the special Roma Gypsy commissioner in the city and is expected to be given the task of demolishing over 60 illegal Roma camps on the outskirts of the city that have angered residents. The moves come amid a series of high profile criminal cases involving Italy's Roma community causing public sentiment against the Roma to run high across the country. On Wednesday, furious residents in the low-income Ponticelli district of the southern Italian city of Naples, burned to the ground a Roma camp, whose 100 inhabitants had earlier been evacuated by police. Last Saturday, a 17-year-old Roma girl allegedly attempted to kidnap a baby girl in Ponticelli. On Tuesday, incensed locals started a protest against the camp and hurled several molotov cocktails onto the shacks setting them alight. The Roma girl is being held in custody on suspicion of abduction and housebreaking.

The Italian government on Tuesday unveiled a set of five points to safeguard security, including the expulsion of immigrants who are not gainfully employed. Maroni said the government intends to dismantle Roma camps which are present in and around many of Italy's major cities. Many Roma have Romanian nationality and Maroni was scheduled on Thursday to meet Romania's interior minister Cristian David to discuss the issue of Romanian immigrants. Romania has complained over the Italian government's plans to tighten border controls and prime minister Calin Tariceanu said earlier this week that plans to make illegal migration to Italy a crime punishable by up to four years' jail, could stoke xenophobic attitudes towards Romania. In late November last year, the previous centre-left government expelled over 200 Romanian nationals with criminal records, in the wake of the murder of a housewife in Rome, allegedly by a Roma man of Romanian origin.



16/5/2008- The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) today expressed concern over the violent attacks on informal Roma settlements in Italy. The ODIHR called on the Italian authorities to ensure the protection of the Roma population and urged politicians and the media to refrain from anti-Roma rhetoric. "We are troubled by the recent incidents of violence against Roma in Italy," said Ambassador Christian Strohal, the ODIHR's Director. Andrzej Mirga, the head of the ODIHR's Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues, added: "There has been a worrying rise of anti-Roma and anti-immigrant rhetoric in recent months across Italy. There must be no place for racial stereotyping and inciting hatred and violence in a tolerant democratic society." Earlier this week, several Roma settlements near Naples were attacked and set on fire by residents from neighbouring communities following reports of a Roma teenager allegedly having attempted to kidnap a child. Hundreds of Roma are reported to have fled their settlements for fear of further attacks or have been relocated by the authorities for security reasons. Immigrants from Romania, in particular those of Roma origin, are widely blamed by politicians and in the media for an increase in crime in Italy. "Frustrations about high crime levels may be understandable. But the current stigmatization of Roma and immigrant groups in Italy is dangerous as it contributes to fuelling tensions and increases the potential for violence," Strohal said.



The burning of a gipsy camp in Naples has triggered fears that the new Italian government is inspiring a hate campaign against immigrants.

14/5/2008- Around 100 Roma gipsies were rescued on Tuesday night by firefighters and police after an attack on their camp in Ponticelli, on the outskirts of the city. More crowds gathered yesterday to launch Molotov cocktails at the camp and burn its remaining buildings. The mob at Ponticelli was enraged by news that an unnamed 16-year-old Romanian girl from a different part of town was arrested for trying to snatch an unattended six-month old baby. The episode sent tensions about immigrants spiralling in the city. Vincenzo Esposito, a spokesman for a charity which helps immigrants, said a "witch-hunt" was underway. "No Roma gipsies have ever been prosecuted for stealing children, but they are looking for culprits," he said. In Genoa, around 100 residents of the Teglia district gathered yesterday to protest outside a nearby immigrant camp, which they said was full of filth and criminals. The anti-immigrant sentiment has been fuelled by the neo-fascists of the new government, who have promised to expel immigrants and dismantle every makeshift camp in the country. Walter Veltroni, the leader of the opposition, said: "We must be careful of this immigrant hunt, of vigilantes." However, Roberto Maroni, a member of the far-right Northern League who has now become Home minister, said he had a five-point, zero tolerance plan to deal with immigrants. "The first point will be the fight against illegal immigration. We may make it a criminal offence," said Mr Maroni. He added that he would then negotiate with Romania to take many of its citizens back and then hand power to cities to deal with their immigrant populations. Extraordinary commissions are being set up in Italy's five biggest cities to arrest and expel illegal immigrants.
The Telegraph


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