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Italian authorities have forcibly removed hundreds of Roma from a living area in Northern Rome, despite the European Court of Human Rights’ recent decision urging Italy to delay its eviction process. Police raided the Camping River area on Thursday, following orders under Italy’s far-right Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini. The Interior Minister has a reputation for his anti-Roma and anti-migrant attitude, leaving the minority group vulnerable to forms of discrimination.
Al Jazeera reports that during a meeting with Rome’s Mayor and the Interior Minister on Wednesday, it was decided that the eviction of the Roma Camp would occur regardless of the European Court of Human Rights’ decision, with Salvini stating “I’m interested in restoring the rule of law, regardless of what letters from courts say.” Translated into English, Salvini also tweeted “Legality, order and respect above all”, backing his decision to evict the camp. The Interior Minister’s decision, however, goes against international norms. Amnesty International’s Catrinel Motoc stated, “by forcibly evicting this camp in defiance of the European Court of Human Rights, Italy is not only demolishing people’s homes and destroying their lives but also trampling its international and regional human rights obligations.”
The removal of Roma people from their homes in the camp reflects the ethnic group’s vulnerability under the current leadership of Matteo Salvini. Sworn in as Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Interior in early June this year, Salvini has already proposed a number of reforms regarding the ethnic group. This includes the Roma Census Plan, which Reuters describes would be a census taken of the Roma population, with those not of Italian nationality deported. Al Jazeera has compared this census to Europe’s dark and racist history, where Roma people were counted and killed during the Holocaust. Forced evictions are also seen as a violation of human rights under international law, including the European Convention on Human Rights which Italy is a member of. Along with Italy’s refusal to follow the European Court of Human Rights’ orders, ethnic minorities including Roma are now vulnerable to forms of discrimination which international laws seek to protect.
Italian authorities claim that the eviction of the camping river area was due to hygiene concerns, as many of the Roma community are living in poverty. Also known by the term squatters, Italy has a Roma population between 120,000 and 150,000. Associazione 21 Luglio has reported that Italy has a history of forced evictions, with last week’s incident skyrocketing above the 33 Roma evicted in Rome in 2017. The New York Times reports that during the incident on Thursday, many residents chanted “Racists” to the police, with others claiming the police used unnecessary force during the incident. While some residents had tried hard to protect their homes by taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights, they could not be protected from the intentions of the Italian government.
The forced eviction of the Camping River area represents the Italian government’s current disregard for human rights, particularly for ethnic minorities. Concerns are now on the hundreds of homeless Roma people and the thousands of others who could face forced evictions in the future. The Italian Government must respect international laws and courts, regardless of the Interior Ministers’ values, if it is to properly protect all of its population in the future.