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A Map of Roma camps in Rome: the realm of extortion and drugs

A “screening” of 60 areas, mostly outside the law and inhabited by various Roma ethnics, provides a first complete map of nomad camps in the Italian capital. This first snapshot reflects a more disquieting national-level situation, with hundreds of areas inhabited by over 130,000 Roma often becoming “off-limits” even for law enforcement agencies, with overcrowded shacks packed full with illegal immigrants, repeat offenders or people wanted by the polic — virtual hubs for drug trafficking and retention of stolen cars, jewellery, copper, and which fail to meet the most elementary equipment and hygiene standards.

An average half of the Roma are very young, and gypsies account for most of the 417 teens who crowd criminal facilities for the underage, Il Giornale reports. Their monitoring was called for, in light of the Berlusconi Cabinet’s approach of the illegal immigration and counter-crime issues. There is a new way of approa­ching the urgency of public security by Walter Veltroni’s heir at the Rome City Hall, Gianni Alemanno, most of whose campaign focused precisely on closing down abusive nomad camps, probably as he was unaware of the actual scope of the problem. Which is gigantic, given that the “Eternal City” hosts a record-high number of illegal gypsy camps.


The latest census indicates a gro­wing number (48) of illegal areas, lacking any authorisation, posing risks of epidemics, with 46 of them having no bathrooms or toilets or an individual water and electricity supply contract. Hygiene and health standards, analysed on an individual basis, range from “very bad” (47 camps) to “medio­cre” (4 camps) and to “moderate” (9 camps). A “satisfactory” rating is therefore a utopia in such structures, mostly made up of trailer homes and shacks hosting as many as 160-220 people in average, as it is the case with the camps in Benigni and Tor di Quinto.
The image of the gypsy camps in protected areas or archaeology sites is “surrealist”: trailer homes in the “Veio Park,” camps scattered across the archaeology site at Cinecitta, four shantytowns along the “Appia Antica Park,” on the San Sebastiano hill. The proliferation of illegal camps on the banks of Aniene and Tevere rivers prompted their rating as areas with “high flooding hazard.” First of all, Tor Di Quinto. Then there are the wood and cardboard shacks between the Matteotti and Duca D”Aosta bridges, the tent camps behind the Via Bencivegna and Via Foce dell”Aniene. Camps where crime aspects mark disquieting peaks of intolerance and delinquency are sometimes the best equipped ones. Serious internal tensions are reported in “Lombroso” at Ponte Milvio, and in “Salviati 2,” which abounds in conflicts over various incompatibilities.

The most dangerous area

According to police and the Cara­binieri, the most dangerous re­mains the “Casilino 900” camp: 850 souls, more than half of them familiar to the police called at “113” or Carabinieri ser­ving 112 calls. Theft, pickpocketing, burglary, drug trafficking. Code-red alert for the mobile teams and Carabinieri task forces which carry out crackdowns or routine patrols, which they are not sure to survive. The same holds true for the “Gordiani” camp, the kingdom of cocaine: of the 240 dwel­lers, none has ever been seen working.
The black list of the Roma debasement is endless, Il Giornale emphasises. And so is the list of offen­ces perpetrated by gypsies on a daily basis, in the shadow of the Coliseum. Rome prosecutors have recently come across a theft school for ten Roma si­blings, with classes taught by the parents, while theft cases and violence against women unfortunately remain frequent occurrences. The seizing of two Roma women on Corso Trieste, both of them pregnant, is an instance of an operation intelligently carried out by the police. According to law enfor­ces, begging concurrent with pickpo­cketing is hard to counter, especially when tourists are the victims. If all goes well, some 10-12 complaints a day are filed, in average. A 19-year old woman from the Castel Romano camp was arrested by the Carabinieri for the 35th time on April 13, after stealing a tourist’s wallet. She is the sixth in a ranking by number of offences. A 27-year old Bosnian woman, arrested in Verona in April tops the chart, with 75 offences and a 16-year sentence, yet to be served.

No Roma camps, but urban ghettos in Romania

In Romania, gypsies do not live in nomad camps, but in slums outside towns, a sort of enclaves in which they were segregated during Nicolae Ceau­şescu’s regime. Their official number is 535,000, but the actual figure is put at 1.5 – 1.8 million, writes the author of a report from Bucharest, published in Il Messaggero. The most infamous of the gypsy neighbourhoods in Bucharest is Ferentari, and outside the capital city large gypsy communities are reported in Călăraşi and Craiova. Constant features of these urban enclaves include high crime rates, debasement and diseases.
Gypsies were originally slaves in princely courts and monasteries, dealing in the processing of gold and copper. They came to Romania in 1385; slavery was abolished in 1844. During WW2, they were deported: close to 25,000 nomads were sent into labour camps in Transdniester. Eleven thousand of them survived. Com­mu­nism banned their traditional crafts, and forced them to take up agriculture. Since the fall of communism, they have travelled to EU countries, Italy in particular.

Since the Mailat scandal

Disputes over the Roma were reheated by the murder of Giovanna Reggiani in Rome, last November, by Nicolae Romulus Mailat. A Gallup poll released shortly after the murder of Giovanna confirmed that many Roma­nians prefer the term gypsy instead of Roma, for fear that “Romanian” would be mistaken for “Roma.” In February 2000, the Foreign Ministry ordered that the term Roma be used in official documents, rather than gypsy.

Solutions for the Roma

One of the solutions suggested by authorities for the promotion of Roma integration is education, “but more of­ten than not school principals decide to separate Roma children from Ro­manian ones,” says Magda Mata­che, head of a non-governmental orga­ni­sation called “Romani Criss”. “The pro­blem is not that the Roma don’t send their children to school, but that tea­chers, mostly Romanian, don’t pay enough attention to them, which is why a Roma eight-grader will likely be unable to read and write,” Magda Matache adds, and argues that discrimination also affect graduate gypsies, who have difficulties getting employed.
The national governmental agency for the Roma spent 4.5 million Euro worth of PHARE funds on anti-discri­mination campaigns on training over 2,000 people to promote social integration. “Romania is the only coun­try in Eastern Europe to borrow 25 M US dollars from the World Bank, to channel close to half of this amount into the infrastructure in 120 Roma communities,” head of the aforesaid agency, Gruia Bumbu, told the Italian media. He also added that 70 kindergartens would be modernised and 20 new ones will be build in localities with mostly Roma popula­tions. Another 3.3 million Euros are earmarked for identity documents for the gypsies, given that a lot of them do not have such documents, the Italian daily concludes.

by Andrei BĂDIN

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 57
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