Saturday, June 07, 2008

Italian Government's War on Gypsies
07. Jun 2008

Italy: Government Wages War on Roma

In this article, the author call the racist attacks on Roma in Italy "pretty damn close to fascist".

Following the anti-Roma line of the what I would call pretty damn close to fascist, Italian government, vigilante attackers in late May 2008 set fire to shacks where Roma lived on the outskirts of the Italian city of Naples. The Naples arson attacks were apparently co-ordinated by clans of the Camorra, the Naples Mafia.

Today the State is doing pretty much the same in the capital. The government earlier this morning launched an assault on a Roma camp and chased out its residents.

When the new Cabinet of Silvio Berlusconi, who won a sweeping election victory in April, met in Naples last month, it set forth what it called an emergency decree on crime and immigration, but which was pretty much targetting the Roma community in Italy (for the time being anyway).

The Berlusconi coalition combines his Forza Italia with the anti-immigrant Northern League and the "post-Fascist" Alleanza Nazionale. All agree with Berlusconi that "Italians have the right not to live in fear" - which means targeting those who make Italians afraid.

Apparently Italians are afraid of the Roma people. Eighty thousand Roma are legal Italian citizens, having fled from oppression, starvation, and unemployment in their "home" countries. Most Italian-based Roma have been in the country for years, if not decades, and rarely have family or friends back in Romania, Bulgaria, or Hungary, where most of them started their wanderings.

Makes no difference to the new fascists in charge of the Italy. Italian police last month arrested hundreds of suspected "illegal immigrants" in raids across the country. Expulsion orders were issued for several dozen of those detained. More than 100 Italians were also arrested. One raid was on a makeshift camp housing Roma, on the edge of Rome.

And the neo-fascist Italian government has handed Italy a new law which gives mayors power to deny residence to EU citizens who cannot show they have adequate earnings and decent housing, i.e. "get the gypsies out of here."

Earlier this week The United Nations High Commissioner For Human Rights, criticized the recent decision of Italy's rightwing government headed by Silvio Berlusconi and his neo-fascist allies to criminalize "illegal immigration" to Italy as well as for recent attacks on Roma camps. That condemnation seems toothless. Others who have experience with fascists, have stepped forward to defend the Roma though so far to little avail.

"There are alarming signs of racism in Italy today," says Riccardo Di Segni, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, who recently visited a gypsy camp to express Jewish solidarity. Jews and Roma both ended up in Hitler's concentration camps, he points out. "We have to be on the alert, not only because of what is happening but because of what could happen. First one group is singled out, then another. This must be stopped now."

The US-based Anti-Defamation League has called on the Italian government to publicly condemn xenophobia against Roma Roma (as if).

"We urge the Italian government to publicly condemn xenophobia against Roma and the anti-Roma rhetoric that fosters an atmosphere in which attacks like those in Milan and Naples can be possible," said Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director.

Since it is the Italian government which is fanning the flames of racism calling on it to "condemn xenophobia" seems naive. What is going on today in Italy is downright nasty.

The right wing election victory last month, which included the election of Rome's first right-wing mayor since World War II and the stiffest rejection ever of communists, was part of a significant shift in favor of the Italian political right, composed of restyled former Fascists, anti-immigrant forces and traditional conservatives. Umberto Bossi and three other members of his Northern League party were given choice seats in the new Cabinet, including control of the Interior Ministry, which oversees police and most domestic security.

Bossi is responsible for statements such as: "Illegal immigrants must be hunted, either in a friendly or a hostile manner. At some point there comes a moment when force must be used." Bossi triggered a storm in 2003 when a newspaper quoted him as saying that immigrants arriving in Italy by boat should be stopped by a cannon that "blows everyone out of the water".

"All Gypsies must go," the league's Davide Boni, an official in the Lombardy regional government, said recently in an interview in his office in Milan.

In this climate, it came as little surprise that the government's first action has been a harsh police crackdown on the Roma.

On June 6, 2008 :: Adnkronos International reported that a Roma camp that houses 120 people, including 40 children, was being dismantled by Italian authorities in Rome. About 40 caravans and tents were being dismantled near the capital's Tiber river in the neighbourhood of Testaccio despite protests from the residents. Many of the inhabitants of the camp had reportedly been transferred from a camp in the area of Saxa Rubra, also previously dismantled.

Also, in the northern Italian city of Milan, a census was carried out on Friday in the camp of Via Impastato. All inhabitants were identified and will reportedly receive a card allowing access to the camp.

Beside others, the human rights group, Amnesty International, and the Anti-Defamation League, both recently attacked Italy for its treatment of Roma and "illegal immigrants".

A protest to defend the rights of the Roma and Sinti community was scheduled to take place in Rome on Sunday.

This article was published first on 06. Jun 2008 by ::, modification by