The Roma population in Italy is estimated between 120,000 and 180,000 people. This is not official data and it is tricky to define an ethnic origin. Who is Roma? Who is not? There is of course the risk to base the information on ‘evaluations of genetics’. Nevertheless, it is important to have figures in order to consider the living conditions and the impact of local and national policy measures.
Nowadays, in Italy 28,000 Roma–of which the 55% are minors–live in segregated slums. Usually these slums placed in the extreme margins of society and in the outskirts of large cities. Lack of knowledge and prejudices about supposed “nomad-ism”, coupled with an absence of political will for integration, influenced the measures adopted by authorities since the 80’s. Such measures led to the creation of a “Roma-only camp” system. In Italy, 18,000 Roma live in institutional settlements built and managed by public authorities and approximately 10,000 people live in informal camps. Living conditions in both the institutional and the informal camps are very hard. Usually inhabitants of informal camps are recently migrated Romanian citizens, while formal camps are usually inhabited by Roma communities who came from Balkan States like the former Yugoslavia.
Since 2012, when the National Roma Integration Strategy (NRIS) was signed by the Italian Government, not much has changed. Over the last years, the international monitoring agencies have repeatedly raised their concerns and expressed recommendations about the urgency of overcoming “camp policies” in the country. The measures adopted in the last years were in sharp contrast to the recommendations expressed in the NRIS, due to lack of financing and scarce communication between local and national authorities. This produced irregular and discontinuous policies. As a result, forced evictions and the planning and building of new mono-ethnic settlements took place in 2016, especially in Campania. An example is the situation in Naples. On the occasion of the International Roma day celebrated on 8th April, 200 of the 1,000 Roma living in the informal camp of Gianturco were forcibly evicted and relocated to a new settlement nearby. No housing alternatives were provided for the others 800 Roma–half of them minors. Furthermore, whilst the strategy calls for actions aimed to close the camps by 2020, public institutions are still building new camps.
According to the data collected by Associazione 21 luglio, forced evictions of Roma communities living in Rome grew by 133% in 2017, affecting 478 people and half of them are children. Forced evictions seriously compromise the schooling path of children and definitely go against the Strategy principles. Education for Romani children is one of the Strategy’s guidelines for inclusion. It is largely recognized that the policies of education have been inefficient, but the solution cannot be reached via an ethnic approach. Roma pupils do not need specific policies because they are Roma. The lack of schooling among Roma children mainly depends on their housing conditions. The isolated camps–located outside of the networks of transportation–and particularly the disempowering conditions of the camps prevent children and adolescents from going to school or studying.
Nevertheless, something positive has also happened in 2016. In November, the Italian Senate unlocked the funds allocated in 2008 to face the “Nomad Emergency”. The money was given to local authorities to enhance Roma inclusion. Moreover, the National contact point for the NRIS, UNAR, hosted a meeting of young Roma activists in October 2016. These activist from all the country set up the Roma National Platform, in which Associazione 21 luglio is also involved. One of its goals is to provide the content and guidelines of the Strategy.
However, given that the roll-out of the Strategy is already more than half way finished, the goals set for 2020 will very likely not be reached and further delays can be expected.