The Italian authorities must act immediately to combat discrimination against Roma and provide redress for those affected by the widespread human rights violations perpetrated under the illegal state of emergency.
Amnesty International's call comes after the Council of State, the highest administrative court in the country, ruled unlawful the 2008 decree declaring a state of emergency in relation to nomad settlements (the “Nomad Emergency”).
“Declaring a baseless state of emergency targeting an ethnic minority and maintaining it in force for three and half years is a scandal. The nomad emergency was illegal and discriminatory under international human rights law; it should have never been declared,” said Valentina Vitali Amnesty International’s researcher on Italy.
“Under the “Nomad Emergency” the authorities were able to carry out forced evictions with impunity. Now Mario Monti’s cabinet must make things right. They have to provide remedies for all those affected by forced evictions and other human rights violations. They must put human rights at the top of their agenda.”
In May 2008, the Italian government declared a state of emergency in relation to the settlements of nomad communities in several regions including Lombardy, of which Milan is part, to address what they considered a “situation of grave social alarm, with possible repercussions for the local population in terms of public order and security”.
The emergency referred to nomad settlements but in reality it targeted Roma communities, the vast majority of whom are not nomadic. On 16 November 2011, the Italian Council of State declared the “Nomad Emergency” unlawful. As of today, the Italian government has yet to announce how it intends to comply with this judgement.
The “Nomad Emergency” allowed the authorities to unleash a wave of forced evictions from unauthorized camps in Milan that made hundreds of Roma families homeless. These evictions were carried out in the absence of any proper procedure and without any offers of adequate alternative housing. The consequences for Roma families have been devastating, particularly for hundreds of children whose schooling has been disrupted.
A mother of five children who has been evicted several times with her family from a number of unauthorized settlements in Milan told Amnesty International:
“The evictions hurt us; they take away our rights and our happiness. The police treat us like thieves; they shout at us, they push us. It is traumatic, my eight-year-old son did not speak for months after an eviction because of the shock.”
Under international law, evictions may be carried out only as a last resort, once all other feasible alternatives have been explored and only when appropriate procedural and legal safeguards are in place.
These include genuine consultation with the affected people, prior adequate and reasonable notice, adequate alternative housing and compensation for all losses, safeguards on how evictions are carried out, and access to effective legal remedies and procedures, including legal aid where necessary.
Governments are also required to ensure that no one is rendered homeless or vulnerable to other human rights violations as a consequence of an eviction. To date Italy has failed to adopt and enforce a clear prohibition on forced evictions in line with international human rights standards.
“The authorities in Milan must immediately stop all forced evictions. They must provide adequate alternative housing, without discrimination, to all people being evicted who are unable to provide for themselves; in particular, the office of the Mayor must ensure that emergency shelter is offered to all persons who require it, without separating families,” said Valentina Vitali.