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    Roma in EU: families in Milan threatened by eviction

    A hearing in the European Parliament last October drew the attention to the situation of Roma as victims of forced evictions in a number of EU member states. Italy is one of the member states most affected with systematic evictions by the authorities in Rome and Milan. This time the wave of evictions in Italy will affect Roma inhabitants with Italian citizenship.

    Unless a Christmas miracle happens, about 20 Roma families in Milan, Italy, will be evicted on 10 January. They will be forced to leave the Via Idro camp where they have been living regularly for about 25 years and, without any other choice, move to a temporary camp under much worse conditions.

    In a petition to the municipal authorities the families at Via Idro are protesting against the decision and asking for support for their cause. The petition can be found at https://www.change.org/p/stop-eviction-roma-families-of-via-idro-milan and is supported by the Brussels based European Roma Grassroots Organisations’ Network (ERGO).

    The Via Idro camp is surrounded by a canal and Milan’s ring road and is not a place where most people would like to live. But for its inhabitants it has become a home which provides them a sort of normal life with links to the neighborhood and an opportunity for the children to go to school.

    The alternative the municipality is offering them – housing in container-like structures of 12-15 square meters for whole families– is temporary and will disrupt the life they have been living until now. According to the petition, no Roma admitted to these centers for evicted persons have received a job or permanent housing and they have all ended up in the street.

    Milan, a city with 1.3 million inhabitants, has only about 3 000 Roma according to a recent report by ERGO Network. 1 000 of them live in so called ‘formal camps” or ‘campii nomadi’, as the one at Via Idro, on land offered by local authorities. The municipality provides the infrastructure and social services are provided by NGOs.

    About 2 000 Roma – mostly from Romania – live in ‘informal camps’. These are irregular settlements which have not been authorized by local authorities but some of them where tolerated and grew into villages with real houses. However, in the last three years many evictions have taken place from the illegal settlements in Milan.

    “Evictions are costly, non-sustainable solutions for irregular housing practices,” ERGO Network states. “Milan should stop the circular eviction and invest in long-term solutions that allow Roma to become equal citizens that actively participate in the Italian society”.

    When evicting Roma families, the national authorities in member states rarely apply all the procedural protections foreseen by international human rights instruments. The affected families have no access to legal remedy. The targeting of a minority with measures such as systematic evictions might violate international human rights standards and EU anti-discrimination legislation.

    The European Commission is aware of the events in Milan. “We are currently assessing the situation and are in close contact with the Italian authorities,” a press officer told The Brussels Times.

    M. Apelblat
    The Brussels Times