Italy joins France and Serbia persecuting Roma minority

DAILY SABAH
Istanbul
Published 10.04.2015 23:19

As Europe's Roma population continues to suffer from discrimination and deplorable living conditions, a statement by Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy's far-right Northern League, about Roma camps in the country has sparked anger and anti-Roma hate crimes. Salvini said in an interview that he would "give six months' notice then raze the Roma camps to the ground."

"After segregating us for 30 years, now they want to turn up with bulldozers and get rid of us. Just let them try," said Dijana Pavlovic, the spokeswoman for the Roma and Sinti Council, as reported by Agence France Presse. In Italy, only 40,000 Roma live in purpose-built camps while around 90,000 Roma are Italian citizens with regular employment and houses.

In Serbia, the humanitarian situation of the Roma is worse, as they live in segregated metal containers "far from schools, social services and access to employment." In fact, Amnesty International revealed the failure of the Serbian government concerning a multi-million euro European Commission-funded project to resettle more than 100 Roma families forcibly evicted from the Belvil settlement in Belgrade in 2012.

"Millions of euros were allocated for settlements, and yet three years later, the vast majority of Roma families who were thrown out of their houses are still waiting for a place to call home," Amnesty reported.

The European Commission allocated $3.6 million in 2012 for the Roma in Serbia to be resettled in new, planned housing blocks. The resettlement program was expected to be completed by February 2015, although the Serbian government and the city of Belgrade have failed to meet the requirements.

France's Roma population is a minority group targeted by vigilante attacks and stigmatized by hate speech and it faces constant fear of harassment and discrimination. The Roma community in France has long experienced "high levels of discrimination, stereotyping and racism that result in serious violations of their human rights" while suffering from multiple expulsions and forced evictions from France. The European Roma Rights Center accused the French government of "hav[ing] a clearly harmful impact on the human rights situation of the Roma" due to the deplorable living conditions in informal Roma settlements in France set up by the government. Former French President Nicholas Sarkozy's tough treatment of the Roma still continues, with many Roma subjected to mass evictions. Prime Minister Manuel Valls's integrationist attitude toward Roma migrants is similar to Sarkozy's security policy that aimed to force Roma migrants, who are residents of Romania and Bulgaria, to return to their countries of origin. In 2010, Sarkozy ordered the expulsion of illegal Roma migrants who had committed public order offenses due to concerns about public safety.

With an estimated population of 10 million to 12 million in Europe, the Roma are the largest ethnic minority group in Europe. France is home to around 400,000 Roma while 600,000 Roma currently live in Serbia, according to figures released by the Council of Europe's Roma and Travelers Division. The Roma community is defined by the European Commission as "a variety of groups of people who describe themselves as Roma, Gypsies, Travelers, Manouches, Ashkali, Sinti and other titles. The use of the term Roma is in no way intended to downplay the great diversity within the many different Roma groups and related communities, nor is it intended to promote stereotypes."

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