Hope and uncertainty in Milan camp for Roma

By Matteo de Bellis, Amnesty International Italy campaigner

We are visiting one of the Roma camps that the Italian authorities want to dismantle ahead of the 2015 EXPO in Milan.

On an unseasonally hot day at the Triboniano Camp, we can see the signs of shacks recently dismantled, after some families accepted a return to Romania. The authorities demolished their homes immediately to avoid new arrivals in the camp.

Many of the camp inhabitants are discussing their future, when the camp will no longer exist. The families, mainly from Romania but also including some Bosnians, already number half the amount living here in previous months.

Some have accepted the financial incentives offered by the government to go back to Romania.

Others – 20 families out of a total of about 110 – are moving to flats assigned to them by the authorities. Although contracts were signed, the housing offer was later withdrawn by the local government under the slogan “No houses to the Roma”, so the families had to go to court. They are expected to finally move in soon.

Only a few families have been able to find solutions in the private market, while others – especially those with a member carrying a disability – are still hoping to be allocated social housing.

We walk across the camp together with the operator of a local NGO, who knows everyone by name. A Romanian woman shows us her house, a caravan with a sort of extension on the front. She has been living here for a few years, together with her husband and children; it’s been tough, but now she is radiant.

“We have been assigned a flat and will move there in three weeks, we are all very excited”, she tells us.

“The only problem is that we have to move before the end of the school year, and since I don’t want my children to interrupt their studies abruptly, we will have to accompany them to the old school every day until June, although it’s quite far. I am only sad to leave Triboniano because of the bonds we created with the teachers and the mothers of my children’s schoolmates”.

We think of the other children who are now back in Romania and who did not have a chance to finish their school year in Italy.

We enter the area of the camp inhabited by the Bosnians. Everybody is very friendly and a family invites us to sit with them.

The smell of coffee and the music from a car bring our memories to Sarajevo, although we are not moving from Milan’s outskirts.

This family, who have been living in Italy for almost 30 years, will have to move, sooner rather than later and they don’t know what to do when the camp closes, as none of the proposed alternatives seems suitable to them.

As we leave, we wonder whether every day should be the International Day of the Roma.