Roma on the margins: Housing rights denied

In early 2012, the adoption by the Italian government of the National Strategy for Roma Inclusion (the National Strategy), had the potential to mark a turning point for many Romani families who, for years, had experienced forced evictions, segregation and discrimination in access to housing in Italy. 

Promising to “overcome large-sized mono-ethnic settlements” and “increase access to a wide range of housing solutions”, the National Strategy brought hope to families and organizations which for years had been denouncing the widespread and systematic human rights violations experienced by Romani women, children and men.

However, as we celebrate International Roma Day on 8 April, it is painfully clear that, four years on, the promises engraved in the ink of the 2012 document have just simply become mirrors and smoke. Life for thousands of Roma in Italy remains as difficult as ever, as they continue to be faced with official neglect and prejudice.

Injustice as a daily reality

Segregation, forced evictions and discrimination in access to housing remain the daily reality of Romani communities in Italy. Some families continue to be placed in mono-ethnic camps across the country, often in appalling living conditions, near airport runways or on the outskirts of the cities, far away from services, schools and jobs.

Others live in fear that at any time, authorities might come and tear them away from the place they call “home”, placing them in mono-ethnic shelters, or worse, leaving them on the streets. 

Romani families that seek to access social housing and benefits often see their attempt bluntly crushed by criteria they cannot comply with.

These abuses affect Italian citizens, stateless people and individuals of different nationalities, all having one thing in common: being Roma.