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[ 17. May 2008 ]

Hate Crimes - The Italian way to create security?

Brennendes Roma Camp

Berlusconis shows hard-line policies and practices towards immigrants, the last weeks especially towards romanians, who were arrested and sent back to Romania. In Naples local people started to attack people and burned a Roma camp near Naples to the ground.


The recently redeemed Italian government of Romano Prodi passed earlier this year an emergency decree that
- allows the deportation of migrants from other EU countries
- limiting procedural safeguards of deportations and
- introducing administrative detention for European citizens if they are considered a threat to public safety

The decree was issued after the alleged murder of an Italian woman by a Romanian of Roma origin. Mr. Frattini, ex Commissioner for Justice and Civil Liberties at the European Union declared: 'What has to be done is simple. Go into a nomad camp in Rome for example, and ask them: Can you tell me where you live? If they say they do not know, take them and send them home to Romania. This is how the European directive works. It is simple and safe. Romania cannot say they will not take them back, because it is an obligation that is part of being a member state of the EU'.

On 13th April 2008 Silvio Berlusconi swept back to power for the third time, after the Italian general election gave him and his centre-right allies an overwhelming lead in the Senate as well as in the Chamber of Deputies. Immediately after his election victory he already warned Italians of tough times ahead and announced more hard-line policies and practices towards immigrants to combat associated crimes.

Yesterday, Thursday 15th May, the Italian police proudly broadcasted that they arrested nearly 400 people in a successful crack down on 'illegal immigration' throughout the whole country. This 'cleaning action' in mostly migrant shantytowns in major urban areas across the country can be seen as consequential result of Italia's backslide into the far right in its government. The main focus of Italian concern about immigrant crime lies with the Roma, general known as "nomads". Mr. Berlusconi's party, The People of Freedom (Il Popolo della Libertà) party, promotes on their campaign homepage that they would empty illegal camps, and remove nomads who have no legal residence or means of subsistence.

During the 'anti-immigration' operation of the Italian police in 15
regions, from North-Italy to Naples, 383 persons were arrested, 268 of it were foreigners. 177 persons are accused of thievery, 111 are accused of illegal immigration, 92 are accused of drug trafficking and 3 are accused of prostitution. 53 of the arrested persons were deported immediately and 65 of them were transported to detention camps.

"The anti-immigrant sweep was a positive thing because that's what people want," said Umberto Bossi, the minister of institutional reforms and federalism. "People ask us for safety, and we must give it to them."

In Naples Roma camps had to be evacuated, because mobs of local people
started to attack the camps after a 16-year-old Roma girl was accused of trying to kidnap a baby. From 14th to 15th May local vigilantes burned a Roma camp near Naples to the ground. It was the sad result of this week's constant assault of Roma camps around Naples, mostly by youths on scooters and motorbikes using iron bars and throwing Molotov cocktails.

These massive assaults against Roma people don't accrue coincidently, but are the devastating result of hate speeches of politicians, xenophobic media coverage and authorities and discriminative laws that are stigmatising an entire ethnic minority. For example Milan introduced a special commissary for the Roma issue creating the basis for a pogrom against the Roma and migrant communities in Italy - Rome and Naples aim to follow up on this policy. These alarming developments even activated the Council of Europe and Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights, came to the conclusion:

"The decision to institutionalise a body like the national commissary to control the Roma emergency is based on prejudices and it propagate these prejudices."

More information under:

OSCE human rights body concerned about anti-Roma violence in Italy

The European Roma Information Office

Segregation of Roma Children in Education

Rom e Sinti - Contributo di Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo;idint=cn08042902

Related Articles:

The Independent: Italian tolerance goes up in smoke as Gypsy camp is burnt to ground

BBC: Italy police to protect Gypsies

BBC: Italian police swoop on migrants

Herald tribune: Italian minister wants to bring back border checks

Article from UNITED for Intercultural Action