(Washington, D.C.) — Amnesty International urges Italian authorities to stop plans to evict Roma families from the Tor de’Cenci camp on the outskirts of Rome, saying instead that officials should focus on improving the camp’s deteriorating housing conditions.
City officials plan to close Tor de’Cenci and resettle the roughly 350 inhabitants to a new camp by July 10. Despite giving the green light to proceed, Rome’s municipal government has failed to establish a clear rationale for Tor de’Cenci’s closure, neglecting to implement important safeguards in the decision-making process.
"The authorities should refrain from evicting residents who are not willing to relocate, and take steps in consultation with residents to restore adequate housing conditions and infrastructure in the camp," said Jezerca Tigani, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia.
City officials originally opened Tor de’Cenci in 1995 as an area that could provide basic services, including schooling, for its residents. Some 350 people of Roma ethnicity, mostly Bosnian and Macedonian nationals, have been living in the camp for more than 16 years.
In recent years, living conditions within Tor de’Cenci have severely deteriorated, in part due to repeated threats from city officials that the camp would soon close. Local authorities have effectively abandoned Tor de’Cenci and are leaving its residents with no choice but to transfer to another camp.
"It's not possible to put us first in a camp, then after 3 years in another camp, then 10 years later in yet another camp," a spokesperson from the community told Amnesty International. "They are playing with us as if we were a soccer ball."
The closure of Tor de’Cenci and the construction of a new camp, La Barbuta, was originally part of Rome’s "Nomad Plan," a blueprint for nomad control laid out under a state of emergency in 2008. As part of their emergency powers, Italian authorities could ignore key protection laws, allowing them to adopt discriminatory measures against Roma with impunity.
These emergency powers were eventually ruled unlawful in November 2011 by the Council of State, Italy’s administrative court, but this has not stopped the plan to uproot the Roma from Tor de’Cenci.
La Barbuta is located in an isolated area near Ciampino airport and is surrounded by fences and cameras. In clear violation of both international law and Italy’s recent commitments to the E.U. Commission, the camp will be racially segregated, housing exclusively Roma families.
While some of Tor de'Cenci's residents have agreed to move to the new camp, many would like to live in social housing or prefer to stay in their current home. Local authorities have not considered either of these options due to "lack of funding," yet almost 10 million euros were reportedly spent to construct La Barbuta.
Amnesty International opposes the forcible removal of any families who have not expressly agreed to leave Tor de’Cenci. Italian authorities must abandon the "Nomad Plan" and take measures to ensure adequate housing for all Roma.
"Authorities must guarantee that any transfer of camp residents is carried out in genuine consultation with them; housing options offered should not be limited to camps," concluded Tigani.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.