Italy: Rome's authorities deny social housing to Roma's communities

The new Italian government and municipal authorities in Rome must act urgently to end discriminatory policies which deny Roma communities access to social housing, Amnesty International said today.

In a letter to local authorities in the capital, Amnesty, along with human rights groups Associazione 21 Luglio, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF), said new policies on housing breach international and EU law and represent a new low in discrimination against the Roma. The groups will also call on the new national government to act immediately to end this discrimination.

Social housing in Rome is allocated through a points-based system. In the last few weeks Roma families who live in formal camps in capital have been told a change of policy means they cannot receive the points they need to access social housing, as they are already living in ‘permanent structures’. Scores of families had already filed their applications for housing and many more were about to do so, when news of the new guidance emerged.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“Roma people are discriminated against throughout Europe and this latest move represents a new low.

“It is shocking that authorities in Rome have brought in policies that prohibit Roma people from having equal access to social housing. The local authorities and new government must take action to end this discrimination as a matter of urgency.”

Formal camps house many of the Italian capital’s Roma population. They are separated from the rest of the city by main roads and high perimeter fences. The camps are often located a long way from essential services, such as hospitals and schools, and living conditions are often poor. The distance from the city centre makes it difficult for adults to find work. Almost all camps are monitored by cameras and guards.

Life in informal camps is even worse, with people having to put up with unhygienic conditions and little access to water, sanitation and electricity. They are often forcibly evicted from their homes.
The segregation of Roma communities from the rest of the city’s population means that integration and social inclusion are impossible.
 

Background

Until December 2012, Roma living in camps were excluded from access to social housing in Rome, because of the requirements for applying and criteria for allocation of housing units. The criterion by which social housing was assigned in Rome was “lawful eviction from private accommodation” – a situation which does not apply under current legislation to Roma families living in camps. This situation seemed to change when, on 31 December 2012, a new public notice was published by the municipality of Rome, saying that the maximum score for eligibility for social housing (category A1) would be granted to those in "greatly disadvantaged housing conditions", including families living "in centres, public dormitories or any other appropriate structures temporarily provided by entities, institutions and recognised and authorised charitable organisations dedicated to public assistance".

This move was welcomed by Roma families living in formal camps and NGOs working to end discrimination against Roma in Italy. The housing and living conditions of Roma families residing in formal camps seemed to match precisely those described in Category A1 of the public notice. However, the city authorities swiftly moved to prevent Roma from being able to take up their rights to social housing.

An internal circular was issued on 18 January by the Municipality of Rome, saying that these camps cannot be considered as matching the situation described in Category A1, as they should be regarded as "permanent structures". Category A1 is the top priority category which gives the highest number of points to the applicant and offers the only concrete possibility of being assigned housing, in the current context of a severe social housing shortage in Rome

Yet the very same authorities have repeatedly claimed that Roma in Rome are not segregated from the rest of the city people are housed there only temporarily. Amnesty believes this hypocritical stance is a clear attempt to deter Roma families living in formal camps from applying for social housing.

National and international NGOs are deeply concerned that Roma in Rome continue to be ethnically segregated in formal camps, the only places where they have been offered housing. The end of such segregation can only be achieved if Roma families living in camps are allowed equal access without discrimination to other forms of housing, including social housing.
 

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