[10 June 2015] - On 30 May 2015, the Civil Court of Rome decided at first instance against the municipality of Rome, ruling for the first time in Europe that "nomadic camps" are a form of segregation and discrimination based on ethnic grounds, breaching Italian and European law.
In April 2012 the NGOs ASGI (Association for Legal Studies on Immigration) and Associazione 21 Luglio took legal action against the City of Rome to stop the construction of La Barbuta camp. This lawsuit was supported by Amnesty International (AI), European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and Open Society Foundations (OSF).
As argued in the complaint, the Italian court stated that the construction of the "village" La Barbuta was discriminatory in nature - and therefore unlawful by the mere fact that a specific ethnic group, the Roma, were being segregated from the local population through the provision of housing from the city council. "It must indeed be considered as discriminatory any large scale housing solution directed only at persons belonging to the same ethnic group, especially if realised, as in the case of the settlement site in La Barbuta, in order to hinder cohabitation with the majority population, and in terms of equal access, to fair conditions, to education and social health services located in an area where there is a serious risk to the health of persons residing there".
On 30 May 2015, the Civil Court of Rome acknowledged "the indirect discriminatory nature of the Rome Municipality’s behavior [...] that it expressed in the allocation of housing in the formal camp La Barbuta," and therefore ordered the City of Rome to halt any future actions and adequately and fairly address the needs of the affected Roma community.
This judgment reaffirms the long-held positions of ASGI, Associazione 21 Luglio, ERRC and OSF, and it applies also beyond the context of La Barbuta. Placing Roma in Roma-only camps, shelters or any other mono-ethnic housing solution fosters social exclusion and is contrary to the Race Equality Directive 2000/43 that prohibits discrimination in housing.
However, notwithstanding the importance of this decision, the organisations stress that the overall situation in Italy for Roma in equally accessing housing continues to raise serious concerns. We urge the European Commission to initiate infringement procedures against Italy on the basis of the clear shortcomings of its implementation of the Racial Equality Directive.