Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Italian fascism returning?

“On May 13, assailants burned the Ponticelli Jewish ghetto in Naples to the ground, causing the approximately 800 residents to flee while Italians stood by and cheered. On the day of the arson attacks on the Ponticelli ghetto, RAI television showing Italians in the area screaming “Jews out” was broadcast before the police were even alerted to the riot. Further arson attacks on the Ponticelli ghetto undertaken by locals have continued into the week of May 26-30, with evident impunity.”

“Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League, has… ordered that the fingerprinting of all Jews in Italy is to continue in the coming months, our correspondent says.

“Officials began taking fingerprints from Jews in ghettoes in Naples several weeks ago. Identification of those living in ghettoes in Rome and elsewhere is expected to begin soon.”

Oh, sorry… Did I write “Jews” and “Jewish” instead of “Roma”, and “ghetto” and “ghettoes” instead of “settlement” and “camps”? Whoops… In which case it’s OK. Who cares about gypsies, eh?

When will we learn? Hell, I’ve been as guilty as anyone of this – the shocking lack of mainstream media outrage and detailed coverage of the persecution the Roma are facing in Italy (even the BBC report I’ve borrowed from gives little background, without which the fingerprinting alone – in these days of global security paranoia – could seem little to get het up about) means I’ve only just got around to reading up on a situation I’ve been loosely aware of for a while. More:

“On 4th of February 2005, two Roma women were accused in Lecco for trying to steal a child. Both of them declared they were begging with no intention whatsoever of kidnapping. In order to avoid being sentenced both of them accepted the suggestion of their lawyer and pleaded guilty. Accordingly they were sentenced to 8 months and 10 days in jail. As expected the sentence was suspended. Their lawyer acknowledged publicly that the women told him they never tried to kidnap the child but they agree to follow his advice in order to avoid prosecution for begging… “Giu le mani dai nostri bambini” (Take your hands off our children) posters with a picture of a Roma have been spread all around Lombardia…

Pietro Zocconali the president of the National Association of Sociologists implied in a public statement following the incident that killing children is a practice among Roma. He claimed that Roma steal children and then sell them, “sometimes in parts”.

…On May 11 [2008], four Molotov cocktails were thrown into Romani camps in Milan and Novara.

On May 13, assailants burned the Ponticelli Romani settlement in Naples to the ground, causing the approximately 800 residents to flee while Italians stood by and cheered. On the day of the arson attacks on the Ponticelli settlement, RAI television showing Italians in the area screaming “Roma out” was broadcast before the police were even alerted to the riot. Further arson attacks on the Ponticelli settlement undertaken by locals have continued into the week of May 26-30, with evident impunity.

On June 9, Italian media reported that a settlement of circa 100 Romanian Roma in Catania , Sicily had been attacked and burned to the ground.

June 25th Italian interior minister, Roberto Maroni announced during a meeting of the Constitutional affairs committee of the Italian Low Chamber, a ‘Census’ of all ‘nomads’ in Italy . In the frame of this measure finger prints will be taken to all Roma children.

And here was me writing off Berlusconi as a figure of fun.

More from the Guardian and Fistful last week, that I really should have read and flagged up before now.


  1. Some of this reminds me of the Jim Crow laws of the American South.. And – lynching was viewed in the South as “needed, because blacks were prone to violence, especially rapes of white women.” Part of the notions in the brutal South were social and crime control. Like the Jim Crow south, the “decree of emergency” has the blessing of the court system and is cloaked in legal authority.

    If you read the report from the European Roma Rights Centre you see that the actions of Italian police are aimed at the Roma people generally and not to apprehend criminals. Read about people are being rousted out of bed and beaten in front of their children at 2AM. Read about how a woman with a heart condition has her home trashed by Italian police, including the shed were she kept items she sold, and is ketp from her medication.

    There is NO excuse that can be given to defend the actions of the Italian Government and police – NONE!

    What is truly needed is a strong reaction from the European Union beyond just possible infringement proceedings from the Commission and blah, bla… but perhaps suspension of membership for the fascist Italian Government. Also, the Union and other international actors often warn governments that aid and relations will be cut off if a certain politician or party is elected. These warnings prior to elections are often given to nations like Serbia and Palestine. Likewise, the same warnings should be given to EU Member States to maintain a certain level of human rights and democracy – and not elect fascists or bigots -or face suspension of membership. Italy should now face such a warning and the credibility of the European Union demands no less…

  2. As I say, I’m only just catching up with this – but the fact that the EU is sitting back and doing nothing while this is going on within its own borders is nothing short of disgraceful.

    The trouble is, those police actions you mention sound rather like a heavy-duty version of the UK’s delightful treatment of asylum seekers. Which means that my own lovely government will probably be on Italy’s side on this one…

  3. I’m glad someone draws the obvious comparison to make clear exactly what’s happening here. What Silvio and his idiot buddies are doing is despicable and unacceptable; it’s blatantly disregardful of their rights as humans and EU citizens.

  4. However, it seams unclear to everyone what exactly can be done. Can the Italian Government be sued in front of the European Court of Human Rights? And does the European Court of Human Rights actually have any power without the Lisbon treaty?

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  6. It`s because of the EU that those gypsies are in Italy, a sudden influx of an alien culture that the Italians dont desire.

  7. @Robin: How much of Italy’s present Roma population consists of recent migrants from further East, and how much has been in Italy for much longer? As a group, Roma have been in Western Europe for several centuries at least, and certainly in the case of France, Spain and the UK, the great majority of Roma are citizens and natives of their current country of residence, often going back several generations. Italy may be different, but I’d like to see the figures.

  8. Colin,

    The fact that they were originally described as Romanians gives the clue that they have recently arrived.
    Unfortunately back in the Eastern countries,especially Ro and BG, they are considered second class citizens. Also unfortunately many if not most live up to that, and they are not fully integrated.It becomes a circle of them not being liked, they then dislike or treat with contempt the “host” community, which makes more of “them” not like “them”, which makes them stick to their own, which makes them feared more, which makes them…etc
    Getting as hysterical as the backlash (as some here are)is not going to help them either.
    Perhaps a homeland for them. But where in the world ? And not all of them, or even the majority, would want to leave the countries they are in.And who would want to pay for it ?Diffuse them throughout Europe ? May lessen the fear of “them” but now you`re talking forced migration, resettlement (and trains ?) Maybe the Italians are on top of this .

  9. Robin, the reason they were described as Romanians was because Berlusconi’s buddy Franco Frattini, while still a Commissioner, had them officially and unilaterally labelled as such – a decision that is currently under review (unsurprisingly considering that Frattini was Berlusconi’s nominee to the Commission and has now left the Commission to join Berlusconi’s government).

    The rest of your points, certainly the cycle of ostracism thing (bar the “many if not most” bit, for which I’d like to see your sources – and which in any case could be disputed by similar methods as have been used to demonstrate that the higher proportional conviction rate for African Americans in the US can be seen as down to a combination of institutional racism and the aforementioned cycle) may have some validity. But the real problem here is that the Roma – like the Jews before them – are not of any one particular state, so lack the protection of any one state.

    Being, as they are, also massively under-represented at EU level, and in any case a largely disparate community of communities with few ties binding them all together, they have no organised group/party large enough to stand up for them when incidents such as these take place. Which is, of course, part of the reason why Frattini was able to get away with labelling the Italian Roma as Romanian in the first place…

  10. I thought the reason they were called Romanian first WAS because they had come from Romania, and most peoples lack of awareness here of people from there means they dont know about Gypsies.
    Mysources are my empiracal evidence. It may not be most, but it is at least a sizeable part.It`s not just some of them who actually live on carts with scrappy canvas coverings,it`s whole villages and parts of cities/towns that are populated by Roma seperately from others. This was also a deliberate policy of Ceacescu.
    Trouble is, is it better that they were fully integrated, or given a different status and LABELLED by authorities. does being favoured, like having extra links to the EU or BBC radio shows here ,help ?

  11. You see, what you’re doing there is confusing “empirical evidence” with “opinion”.

    Here’s a quick history of the Roma, via Wikipedia (so not overly reliable, though this one seems relatively decent). No one exactly knows their origin – “Gypsy” stems from the belief that they were originally Egyptian, for example – most now reckoning instead that they originated from India or Persia. “Roma” comes not from Romania, but from their own name for their native language, “Rom”.

    As for those Roma in Italy? It’s estimated that there are 160,000 Roma in Italy – of which c.70,000 are Italian citizens, and c.60,000 Romanian citizens. That’s hardly a majority of Romanians (just 37.5%, in fact), and yet Frattini’s actions have unilaterally declared ALL of them to be Romanian. That’s rather like me deciding, based on little more than a hunch, that because your name’s Robin you must be from Robbins Island, and so deporting you to Tasmania.

    Empiricism, for future reference, is about knowledge based on facts.

    (I would try to address your last sentence, but I have no idea what it means.)

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