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Alternatives offered to Roma families evicted under Italy's ‘Nomad Plan’ are insufficient

By Jezerca Tigani and Matteo de Bellis, Europe campaigners for Amnesty International

Our team visited Rome and some camps where Roma live on International Roma Day, 8 April 2011. We witnessed once again how the ‘Nomad Plan’, introduced in 2009 by the prefect and mayor of Rome, has made the living situation of Roma in Rome even more difficult than it used to be.

In our blog published on that day we wrote about an accommodation centre at via Salaria 971, where some families evicted under the ‘Nomad Plan’ have been housed, some of them have been living here for longer than one year.

Amnesty International delegates were not allowed into the centre, as the no-visitor rule applies. However, the local NGO accompanying us, Associazione 21 Luglio, managed to collect information about living conditions in the centre and yesterday, 30 May, published a report revealing the deplorable conditions there.

This report, “La casa di carta”, describes how the four large halls in this former factory house as many as 360 people. The centre is situated far from any other populated areas of the city, making it very difficult to access and enjoy basic services.

This is how the report describes the situation inside the centre:

“The structure does not offer any comfortable or pleasant setting; the autonomy and privacy of the guests are not guaranteed; its features do not appear to comply with building, sanitation, and fire prevention regulations. The opportunity of organizing activities is almost non-existent; and, it does not appear to guarantee in any way:
- respect for dignity, personal freedom, privacy, and individuality;
- a comfortable living environment as to rhythms of life and reception standards, and a space adequate to the needs of children growing up therein;
- the maintenance of old and new emotional bonds, due to the no-visitor rule.”

The report also describes the situation of a girl, called “little R.”, who suffers from spastic quadriplegia and whose medical condition would require immediate transfer to an adequate environment.

“The condition of the child is in progressive deterioration: to the problems already encountered were added respiratory and pulmonary complications. […] On 12 April 2011, the head of the Preventive Medicine Office of Rome’s national health service, in a letter addressing Rome’s Director of the Department of Social Services and Promotion of Health, and reporting the health and family situation of the child, wrote: " The current housing situation is unfit, therefore it is requested that the family (of little R.) is urgently transferred to an environment more suitable to the specific needs of the family ”. As of the completion of this research, this formal communication still had to be followed up.”

While the little girl continues to live in the same conditions and place, together with dozens of families, we wonder how long it will take Rome’s authorities to acknowledge that the ‘Nomad Plan’ is the wrong answer - and that it must be scrapped to make way for more dignified solutions.