By Jezerca Tigani, Amnesty International’s Europe expert
The camp Via di Salone in the east of Rome is typical of ‘Nomad Plan’ camps, according to Carlo, a member of a local NGO who is taking me here.
More than 1,200 people live here, even though the camp was built for 500 people. It is located in an industrial area, heavy lorries pass us by. We are driving to the camp but most
Roma have to walk several kilometres to reach a shop, let alone to go to work. Children are picked up by bus to go school, a two-hour drive away.
I recognise the camp from afar. It is sealed by three-metre metal walls with metal wire on top. Around the wall are video cameras. At first, you wonder if it is a prison. When we enter we must leave our identification with the police at the door.
The camp looks as many other I have seen before, with metal cabins/white caravans one after the other in very straight lines. Children play outside in the small space available; young boys and girls listen to loud music; young mums wash babies or play with them. Sewage water has taken over parts of the streets where children play.
I speak to Rasema, a 52-year-old woman who comes from Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina. She came to Italy more than 40 years ago together with her parents, brothers and sisters. Since then she has never been back.
Her three children were born in Italy and do not speak Bosnian; they are Italian after all. They don’t know Bosnia.
Rasema tells me they used to live in Casilino 700 – an (authorised) camp demolished a few months ago. She says more and more people from the evicted camps are being moved here every day, from different nationalities – Croatians, Serbians, Montenegrins, Bosnians, Romanians.
There are eight people living in this very small caravan. Rasema is sad to see her sons just hanging around; doing whatever jobs they can find, with no house and no secure future. ‘This is the life of a Roma’, she says.
Carlo says that the ‘Nomad Plan’ has worsened the life of Roma. It has pushed Roma into further marginalisation and exclusion. Amnesty International called the ‘Nomad plan’ the wrong answer in its 2010 report (link).
We then visit another place where Roma live, which has no name. It is an old factory offered by the local authorities to Roma evicted from Casilino 700 and other camps. We are not able to enter; there’s a no visitors rule.
Just outside the fence more Roma families have built their tents. Some are relatives of the people living inside the factory and others have been promised a place inside soon. Some have been waiting outside for more than two months. They have no running water, no electricity and no toilets. There are very small babies among the adults.
We meet with some Italian neighbours, who come here every day to run a small centre caring for stray cats. They are appalled by the conditions faced by the Roma. A man tells us that they have been many times to the local authorities and asked for help, but nothing has been done. He says: ‘I am ashamed to be Italian and to leave a human being living in such conditions’.