Thursday, March 18, 2010



Friday March 12, 2010
Roma camps in Italy like poorest countries - U.N.
ROME (Reuters) - Living conditions in Italy's camps for Roma are typical of a poor developing country, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Thursday, criticising Italy's treatment of migrants.

At the end of a two-day visit to Italy, Navi Pillay said Italian politicians and media should stop treating immigration largely as a question of public order and focus instead on fostering social integration.

Pillay told reporters she was "profoundly shocked" by her visits to two Roma camps in the capital; one illegal, unauthorised settlement and a legal camp set up by city authorities.

"For a moment I thought I was in one of the poorest developing countries and not in one of the richest nations in the world," said Pillay, who is South African.

"Transferring Roma people from illegal camps to official ones is not an adequate solution because they remain isolated from the rest of the population and have very little opportunity to find work and improve their situation," she said.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who accuses the left of wanting an "invasion of foreigners", has said he rejects the vision of a multi-cultural Italy. He made a tough line on immigration a key policy pledge ahead of the 2008 election.

Since coming to power the government has been criticised by rights groups for policies such as making illegal entry and stay a criminal offence and repelling vessels carrying migrants heading towards Italy.

This month thousands of foreign workers marched and released yellow balloons into the sky in Italy's first "immigrant strike", aimed at underscoring their importance in the economy and protesting against government policies.

Many Italians associate Roma, in particular, with crime and begging. Last year the European Council's high commissioner for human rights said Roma and Sinti people in Italy were subject to "a persistent climate of intolerance".

Pillay criticised the authorities for the excessive use of repressive measures against Roma, such as police surveillance and forced evictions and said she was "alarmed" at the negative portrayal of migrants and Roma in the media.

She highlighted a "quite stunning statistic" that in a survey of 5,684 TV news stories that dealt with immigration only 26 did not link it with a specific criminal event or security issues.

(Reporting by Roberto Landucci; Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Copyright © 2010 Reuters

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