Thursday, September 2, 2010



Italy: Mayor moves to demolish Roma Gypsy camps

Rome, 1 Sept. (AKI) -

Illegal Roma Gypsy camps which have sprung up in the Italian capital will be razed to the ground starting next week, Rome's conservative mayor Gianni Alemanno said on Wednesday.

"The camps will begin to be closed down this week and checks carried out. We are talking about numerous camps that are very small, often with only five to ten residents, and which are frequently in extremely dangerous locations," Alemanno told state television Rai1.

"We need to help children and women, but it is equally clear that people who have arrived in Rome must be able to support and house themselves adequately, otherwise they have to leave," Alemanno, a former neo-Fascist, said.

Authorities in neighbouring France dismantled 128 camps and - controversially - deported 977 Roma Gypsies to Romanian and Bulgaria in August on security grounds, according to the government.

"The state must be able to keep its territory under control," said Alemanno, adding that France's policy of Roma deportations was "unconvincing and weak".

"A European strategy is needed to control the rate of immigration," he said.

Earlier this year, Alemanno demolished Rome's largest gypsy camp, the Casilino 900, which had 600 residents. The sprawling camp had existed for 40 years and was inhabited by people from the former Yugoslavia, as well as Italian gypsies.

The destruction of the Casilino 900 was part of Rome city council's so-called 'Nomad Plan' to demolish around 100 illegal, insanitary and unsafe camps around the capital and relocate 6,000 Roma, commonly referred to as Gypsies, to 13 new or expanded locations on the outskirts of the Italian capital.

The 'Nomad Plan' has drawn criticism from rights groups including Amnesty International, who in a report said the plan would leave at least 1,000 people homeless, and would uproot Gypsies from their homes and communities.

Amnesty and other non-governmental organisations fear Rome's 'Nomad Plan' will be used as a blueprint for similar demolitions of Roma Gypsy camps in other Italian regions.

After a visit to the Casilino 900 camp Italian camps last year, the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, expressed "serious concerns" about Italy's policies towards its Gypsy minority, whom he said faced "a persistent climate of intolerance." "

There are an estimated 150,000 Gypsies in Italy, nearly half of whom were born in the country and have Italian citizenship. Between 12,000 and 15,000 Roma live in Rome, according to Amnesty International.

Tens of thousands of Roma Gypsies have entered Italy in the past few years since Slovakia and Romania joined the EU, and are being blamed by many Italians for much of the recent rise in crime rates.

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