Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Imminent camp clearance of 700 Roma citizens in ethnic cleansing operation

“Imminent camp clearance of 700 Roma citizens who live in the camp, including seriously ill members and 300 children. It is an ethnic cleansing operation. An appeal to the European Commission, the council of Europe and the United Nations High Commissioner”.


“News has just reached us that the Italian authorities have decided to clear the Casilino 900 Roma settlement in Rome within the next three weeks”, say Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau the co-presidents of the human rights organization EveryOne Group. “The Casilino 900 camp is the oldest Roma settlement in the capital.

The families (a total of about 700 people) have lived in the city for the last 40 years, after fleeing from the countries of the former Yugoslavia. The Roma live in disastrous health and sanitary conditions without any kind of assistance programme”, say the activists. “In recent years the institutions have spread terrible ideologies inspired by sentiments of racial hatred towards the Roma people of the Casilino 900 camp, accusing them of antisocial behaviour and being genetically inclined to commit crime”.

Recently, the European Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, described the living conditions and the marginalization in which 300 children, pregnant women and many sick people were forced to live in as “intolerable”. “In spite of the marginalization, the prejudice and the numerous episodes of racism they are subjected to,” continue Malini, Pegoraro and Picciau, “the inhabitants who are able to are constantly in search of work and possibilities of integration.

The imminent camp clearance represents all that is irresponsible and inhuman, because the Comune di Roma has prepared no alternative lodgings or assistance for these soon-to-be-homeless people; no schooling programmes for the children; no support for the most dramatic social and medical cases; and no plans to keep families together - seeing family unity is fundamental in the Roma tradition. What is more, this clearance operation could put the health of Down Syndrome children at serious risk, as well as those suffering from heart problems, people receiving treatment with drugs and dialysis patients.

Several cancer patients live in the camp (who are undergoing cycles of chemotherapy) and both mentally and physically handicapped people. “The conditions they are forced to live in”, say the representatives of EveryOne, “make it difficult for the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations to provide support, According to Dr. Maurizio Di Marzio, (who is in charge of the camper van that has supplied health and social support to the Roma people in the Asl RmB area since 1999) inside the camp are many cases of TB, hepatitis, infectious skin diseases, gastro-intestinal problems and burns, particularly in children.

A camp clearance now, (especially in these freezing winter temperatures) would be a death sentence for the sick and the more vulnerable members of the camp, and a humanitarian crisis of incalculable proportions for all the others. In 2008, some delegations from the European Parliament and the EU Commission visited the camp. At the time the delegations reported the disastrous conditions of marginalization, the poverty and humanitarian crisis the camp’s inhabitants were forced to live in.

Despite this, the Rome authorities and the Italian authorities in general, did nothing at all to improve the situation and, in fact have allowed the Casilino camp to appear more and more like a Polish ghetto in the years of the Holocaust.

In any other civilized country”, concludes the human rights group, “the situation and problem of the Casilino 900 camp would have been tackled from the humanitarian point of view, not from a political or “public safety” point of view.

Instead, it is necessary to build a modern village, with full facilities on the present site, or on another suitable site. As an alternative, the institutions could supply lodgings and initiate an efficient schooling-employment programme, while offering social support to the sick, handicapped and the most vulnerable members of the community.

Unfortunately, the Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, seems to be much more worried about banning demonstrations and protest sit-ins (to be organized by the humanitarian organizations in the event of ethnic cleansing operation in the camp) than in saving human lives.

We hope that the European Commission and Council will intervene rapidly, and if necessary take action and proceedings against the Italian authorities’ decision to clear the Casilino 900 camp without offering its inhabitants a dignified alternative.

It is also important that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights takes a determined stance against this proposed ethnic purge. EveryOne Group, the Them Romano Association, the European antiracist organization United, and the network of human rights associations will adopt every kind of civilized and non-violent action to prevent this humanitarian disaster and safeguard the fundamental rights of over 700 human beings already weakened by a long and terrible period of apartheid and persecution”.
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