On the eve of the International Day of Roma and Sinti, celebrated each year on 8 April, Associazione 21 Luglio presented its annual report on the living conditions of Roma and Sinti communities in Italy. These communities, so-called Roma camps, are still segregated and their residents are victims of discriminatory institutional policies.
Housing emergency and settlements
The question of the housing emergency remains central to understanding the conditions of life of the Roma and Sinti communities in Italy. In the last 20 years, Italy was the country most involved in the design, construction and management of outdoor areas destined to segregate the Roma communities on an ethnic basis.
According to the survey conducted in 2017 by Associazione 21 Luglio, in Italy there are 26,000 people who live in an emergency situation, including about 16,400 in formal settlements (148 in the whole country) and 9,600 in informal settlement or micro settlements.
This figure represents a decrease of 7% compared to 2016, when their were 28,000 Roma living in an emergency situation. The reduction of people living this way is partly explained by the transfer of some communities from informal settlements to occupied buildings and by the voluntary migration of some families to other European countries.
In the surveyed settlements, the living conditions remain deplorable. The institutional slums, designed, built and managed by public authorities, remain below international standards both in terms of sanitary conditions and in relation to the structural conditions of the settlement itself and the relative housing units.
Over the years, some of these institutional slums have also been transformed into "tolerated" settlements - settlements that are no longer officially authorized but are not demolished, to which public authorities supply minimum services. As for the "informal" slums, they are made up of precarious homes (caravans, tents, self-built barracks) that often lack running water, heating, water, a sewer system and lighting.
Such conditions weigh heavily on the health of those who live in these settlements: the inhabitants have a life expectancy that is 10 years lower than the Italian average.
National Roma Inclusion Strategy
As reported by Associazione 21 Luglio, various international monitoring bodies have pointed out that the Italian National Roma Inclusion Strategy has not produced tangible improvements on the conditions of the Roma and Sinti communities in an emergency housing situation.
In 2017, interventions, especially at local level, have been uneven, contradictory and sometimes in contrast with the strategy's orientation. Some mono-ethnic settlements have been built or renovated, thus going in the opposite direction of their overcoming. Some cities have also seen the number of forced evictions increase when they should be avoided instead. Forced evictions instead of remedying the inadequacy of housing, reach the opposite effect of replicate the situation elsewhere, consolidating the vicious circle of poverty and exclusion.
The monitoring activity conducted by Associazione 21 Luglio thus allowed to record 230 forced evictions in Italy in 2017, including 96 in northern Italy, 91 in the center and 43 in the south.
The Annual Report of Associazione 21 Luglio therefore shows us that, for another year, the objective of overcoming the mono-ethnic camps was not respected and the National Strategy for Roma inclusion did not record significant results.
Even if the increase of migration has somewhat distanced the media and public opinion from the "Roma issue," hate speech, discrimination and the violent attacks are still very present in Italian political discourse.
According to the latest data from the 21 Luglio observatory, there is also a direct connection between the discriminatory and segregative public policies and hate episodes of which Roma and Sinti communities are victims, especially during election campaigns, when such discrimination seems to reach the greatest intensity.
Last year, 182 instances of hate speech were reported against Roma and Sinti, of which 51 (28.1% of the total) were qualified as being particularly serious.