European watchdog rebukes Italy over treatment of Roma minority

By Thomson Reuters May 13, 2024 | 11:37 AM

By Matteo Negri

ROME (Reuters) – Italy is failing its Roma minority by neglecting their housing rights, a monitoring body of Europe’s main human rights watchdog said on Monday, in response to a complaint filed by Amnesty International.

About 140,000 Roma live in Italy, out of a total population of around 59 million. According to Amnesty, more than 15,000 of them live in shanty towns on the margins of big cities such as Rome, Milan and Naples.

The European Committee for Social Rights (ECSR) unanimously concluded that Italy was in breach of the European Social Charter as regards the housing rights of the Roma, the Council of Europe said in a statement.

ECSR is a body of the Council of Europe, which upholds human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.

The committee monitors compliance with the European Social Charter, a legally binding treaty guaranteeing fundamental social and economic rights, including on housing, employment and education.

“Italy will now be required to take steps not only to ensure adequate, non-segregated and non-discriminatory housing for Roma, but to also provide remedies enabling some form of long-awaited justice for those who have experienced discrimination and segregation,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

The committee found Italy in violation of articles of the Charter in relation to the continued use of forced evictions, of segregated and sub-standard camps and lack of equal access to social housing for the Roma minority.

Amnesty had filed its complaint against Italy in 2019.

During proceedings before the panel, the Italian government maintained that despite “a difficult situation … a variety of measures and projects have been put in place” to improve the Roma’s access to social housing.

It asserted that Amnesty had not taken into account the ongoing improvements on the ground.

“Roma communities in Italy have faced and continue to face widespread, systemic and long-standing discrimination and unequal treatment with regard to housing,” Amnesty International’s regional researcher for Europe, Elisa De Pieri, said on Monday.

“This decision (by the ECSR) must finally draw a line under decades of discrimination,” she added.

(Reporting by Matteo Negri; Editing by Alvise Armellini and Susan Fenton)