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Integration or marginalization? The failures of social policy for the Roma in Rome

  • Isabella Clough Marinaro (a1)

This article examines Rome City Council's policies concerning the Roma during Francesco Rutelli's two terms as mayor (1993-2001). It demonstrates that the Rutelli administration's policies for these minority communities shifted from a superficial but genuine attempt to overcome aspects of marginalization to a criminalizing strategy of exclusion. It is argued here that the failure significantly to improve the social conditions of the Roma was due to (a) a refusal to tackle the inter-related causes of their social exclusion and (b) submission to the anti-Roma hostility of parts of the voting public. Following the demolition of Rome's largest shanty town in October 2000, the Council was unable to house many of the Roma it had made homeless. It would seem that a ‘cleaning-up’ campaign was intro duced to distance undocumented individuals and those with criminal records from the city through a notable rise in police raids. This change in approach was accompanied and justified by an intensification of ethnicized public order discourse.

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1. The Radical Party emerged in 1955 and ceased to participate in Italian elections in 1988. It focused primarily on civil rights issues. The Greens emerged as a formal party in 1986 to campaign for environmental and social issues. The Margherita is an alliance of centre-left parties created in 2001. See Newell, James L., Parties and Democracy in Italy , Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000.

2. See Lewis, Oscar, ‘The Culture of Poverty’, Scientific American , 215, 4, 1966, pp. 1925; Charles Valentine, A., Culture and Poverty, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1968; Dean, Hartley and Taylor-Gooby, Peter, Dependency Culture, Harvester Wheatsheaf, Hemel Hempstead, 1992.

3. See Nanton, Philip, ‘National Frameworks and the Implementation of Local Policies: Is a European Model of Integration Identifiable?’, Policy and Politics , 19, 3, 1991, pp. 191–7; Favell, Adrian, Philosophies of Integration, Macmillan, Basingstoke, 1998; Samers, Michael, ‘Immigration, “Ethnic Minorities”, and “Social Exclusion” in the European Union: A Critical Perspective’, Geoforum, 29, 2, 1998, pp. 123–44.

4. The Committee for Policies on Immigrant Integration (Commissione per le politiche di integrazione degli immigrati) was set up under the Ministry for Social Affairs of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers to monitor developments in integration following the 1998 Immigration Law. It produced two reports, in 1999 and 2000. Under the centre-right government elected in 2001, immigration issues have been incorporated into the Ministry for Work and Social Affairs and the Committee no longer meets. It has been noted that the Roma in Italy are almost exclusively treated as an immigration issue despite the majority being Italian nationals, a fact which is indicative of their perceived ‘non-citizenship’. Leonardo Piasere, ‘Stranieri “e” nomadi’, in Brunello, Piero (ed.), L'urbanistica del disprezzo , Manifestolibri, Rome, 1996.

5. Commissione per le politiche di integrazione degli immigrati, Secondo rapporto sull'integrazione degli immigrati in Italia , ‘Introduzione e Sintesi’, p. 1,

6. Castles, Stephen, ‘How Nation-States Respond to Immigration and Ethnic Diversity’, New Community , 21, 3, 1995, pp. 293308.

7. Colombo, Asher and Sciortino, Giuseppe, Stranieri in Italia: assimilati ed esclusi , Il Mulino, Bologna, 2002.

8. Dickie-Clark, H.-F., The Marginal Situation , Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1966.

9. Gist, Noel P. and Dworkin, Anthony G. (eds), The Blending of Races: Marginality and Identity in World Perspective , Wiley-Interscience, London, 1972.

10. Bailly, Antoine and Weiss-Altaner, Eric, ‘Thinking about the Edge: The Concept of Marginality’, in Hadjimichalis, Costis and Sadler, David (ed.), Europe at the Margins: New Mosaics of Inequality , John Wiley, Chichester, 1995.

11. See Room, Graham, (ed.), Observatory on National Policies to Combat Social Exclusion: Second Annual Report , European Economic Interest Group, Lille, 1992; Samers, , ‘Immigration’, pp. 1318.

12. Costarelli, Sandro, Il bambino migrante: ritratto psicosociale del minore zingaro a Firenze , Giunti, Florence, 1994; Brunello, , L'urbanistica del disprezzo; Davide Però, ‘Next to the Dog Pound: Institutional Discourses and Practices about Refugees in Left-Wing Bologna’, Modern Italy, 4, 2, 1999, pp. 207–24; Revelli, Marco, Fuori Luogo: cronaca da un campo rom, Bollati Boringhieri, Turin, 1999.

13. ERRC (European Roma Rights Centre), Il paese dei campi: La segregazione razziale dei rom in Italia , Carta, Rome, 2000.

14. Piasere, Leonardo, Popoli delle discariche: saggi di antropologia zingara , CISU, Rome, 1991; Brunello, , L'urbanistica del disprezzo.

15. Revelli, , Fuori Luogo, and Però, Davide, ‘Inclusionary Rhetoric/Exclusionary Practices’, in King, Russell (ed.), The Mediterranean Passage , Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, 2001, have contributed important studies, pp. 162–85.

16. ERRC, Il paese dei campi.

17. See Giovagnoli, Sergio, ‘Zingari a Roma’, in Brunello, , L'urbanistica del disprezzo, and Gianfranco Ciarlantini, ‘Il Comune di Roma e la “questione zingari”’, Lacio Drom , 2, 1997, pp. 912.

18. Porcari, Francesca and GiorgioViaggio, , ‘Dati socio-demografici’, Lacio Drom , 3–4, 1990, pp. 464.

19. Geraci, Salvatore, Maisano, Bianca and Motta, Fulvia, Salute zingara , Caritas Diocesana di Roma, Anterem, Rome, 1998; Costarelli, Sandro, (ed.), Children of Minorities: Gypsies, UNICEF, Florence, 1993.

20. See Porcari, and Viaggio, , ‘Dati socio-demografici’. The authors stress that those declaring ‘permanent’ employment were not necessarily able to work all the year round. Most of these were self-employed as coppersmiths, travelling entertainers, scrap metal collectors and itinerant flower-sellers.

21. These data are based on a sample of 761 people and are thus only indicative.

22. Karpati, Mirella, (ed.), Zingari ieri e oggi , Centro Studi Zingari, Rome, 1993.

23. Però, , ‘Next to the Dog Pound’. For further discussions of stereotypes about the Roma, see Brazzoduro, Marco, ‘Gli zingari: cultura e integrazione’, Un viaggio senza sosta, ASPE, 3–4, 1996, p. 4; Gallini, Clara, Giochi pericolosi: Frammento di un immaginario alquanto razzista, Manifestolibri, Rome, 1996.

24. See Elisabeth Tauber's anthropological study of the role of begging among Sinti, ‘Tenkreh tut kao molo kégan ti mangel?’, in Piasere, Leonardo (ed.), Italia Romanì , Vol. 2, CISU, Rome, 1999, pp. 5970.

25. Statistics regarding the presence of migrants in prisons generally list countries of origin rather than ethnic group. See, for example, di Roma, Caritas, Immigrazione: dossier statistico , Anterem, Rome, 2000.

26. See Donne, Marcella Delle, ‘Roma: profughi dalla ex Jugoslavia e zingari’, in Osella, Carla (ed.), Zingari profughi , Edizioni Gruppo Abele, Turin, 1997, pp. 109–29.

27. For media coverage of anti-Roma demonstrations in Rome in 1987, see Karpati, Mirella, ‘I fatti di Roma: Rassegna stampa’, Lacio Drom , 24, 1988, pp. 269.

28. Nicolini, Bruno, ‘Il Problema degli zingari’, Aggiornamenti Sociali , 910, 1988, pp. 633–48, and Aggiornamenti Sociali, 11, 1988, pp. 687–708.

29. Masserini, Annamaria, Storia dei nomadi: La persecuzione degli zingari nel XX secolo , Edizioni GB, Padua, 1990.

30. See King, Russell and Andall, Jacqui, ‘The Geography and Economic Sociology of Recent Immigration to Italy’, Modern Italy , 4, 2, 1999, pp. 135–58.

31. See Colacicchi's discussion of the origins and discriminatory effects of the label ‘nomadi’: Colacicchi, Piero, ‘Discriminazioni’, in Brunello, , L'urbanistica del disprezzo. Anthropological studies have demonstrated that Roma groups who practise economic nomadism generally have an urban base in which they spend many months of the year. ‘Sedentary’ and ‘nomadic’ lifestyles are not in opposition: many Roma practise a complex mix of both. Zatta, Jane Dick, Gli Zingari, i Roma , Taccuini Dossier, Padua, 1988; Manna, Francesca, ‘Rom abruzzesi: nomadi o sedentari?’ in Piasere, Leonardo (ed.), Italia Romanì, 1, CISU, Rome, 1996.

32. This strategy was outlined to me by Giampiero Forcesi, advisor on social policy, Assessorato alle Politiche Sociali , Comune di Roma, in an interview in 1998.

33. King, and Andall, , ‘The Geography and Economic Sociology’.

34. Viaggio, Giorgio, ‘Analisi dei dati socio-demografici’, Lacio Drom 2, 1997, pp. 1930. The discrepancy between the number of foreigners in the census and previous estimates (see p. 7) may be due to a recent influx of foreign Roma into the city, as well as to flaws in the methodology of the census which particularly undercounted Italian Roma.

35. Karpati, Mirella, ‘Presentazione’, Lacio Drom , 2, 1997, pp. 23.

36. Ibid. ; di Roma, Comune, Zingari: La situazione e gli interventi , Assessorato alle Politiche Sociali, unpublished document, 2000.

37. Converso, Massimo, (ed.), Rom, Sinti e Camminanti in Italia: l'identità negata , L'Aquila, Petrilli, 1996.

38. Interview with Forcesi (see n. 32).

39. For the three academic years from 1999 to 2002, the Council dedicated over 5 billion Lire for schooling projects, divided between three voluntary groups (ARCI Solidarietà received 3,104 million Lire; Comunità di Capodarco 1,200 million Lire; Opera Nomadi 906,829,000 Lire). Source:

40. Karpati, Mirella, ‘Proposte per una scolarizzazione effettiva’, Lacio Drom , 2, 1997, pp. 33–5.

41. A study of pre-adolescents in Milan indicated that Zingari were the least accepted social group. Besozzi, Elena, Crescere tra appartenenza e diversità , Francoangeli, Milan, 1999.

42. Nomadi, Opera, Atti Seminari Nazionali: 1997–1998–1999 , Opera Nomadi Sezione Lazio, Multimage, Florence, 2000.

43. Spinelli, Santino, a Romani intellectual, has argued that various (unnamed) voluntary organizations manipulate the Roma and perpetuate their marginalization in order to maintain their own raison d'être. Spinelli, , ‘Zingari italiani e zingari stranieri’, in Brunello, , L'urbanistica del disprezzo. Roma are generally not included in the management levels of these organizations and tend to be treated primarily as recipients of ‘help’.

44. Ciarlantini, Gianfranco, ‘Il Comune di Roma e la “questione zingari”’, Lacio Drom , 2, 1997, pp. 912.

45. Nomadi, Opera, Atti Seminari ; ERRC, Il paese dei campi.

46. One of my contacts stated: ‘The only way to solve our problems is to give us at least one opportunity to find work.’ During the research period, many youngsters told me that they dreamed of becoming electricians, policeman, hairdressers, etc. Similar trends have been noted among other communities: Costarelli, Il bambino migrante; Franca De Bonis, ‘“Guardarsi in viso”: modalità aggregative fra i Rom di Cosenza’, in Piasere, Italia Romanì, 1. My informers were clearly aware that prejudice about ‘gli zingari’ was a key obstacle to finding work. See also Halilovich, Davide, Tema sulla mia vita: Il diario di un ragazzo rom , DeriveApprodi, Rome, 1999.

47. See, for example, the results of a study of prejudices about Roma among students at La Sapienza University in Rome. Brazzoduro, Marco, De Angelis, R., Mignella, F. and Rella, P., ‘Zingari e pregiudizio’, Lacio Drom , 1, 1997, pp. 2435.

48. Interview with Forcesi (see n. 32).

49. King, and Andall, , ‘The Geography and Economic Sociology’.

50. For example, in 2000 the Council provided 8,000 million Lire for a project organized by Opera Nomadi, in which 25 Roma cleaned a municipal bicycle track for five days, earning 18,000 Lire per hour, before tax. Osservatore Romano , 21 January 2000.

51. di Roma, Comune, Deliberazione No. 31 , 29 March 1999.

52. Grga, Mirko and Mauri, Andrea, ‘I gruppi zingari a Roma’, Lacio Drom , 2, 1997, pp. 1318. Most anthropological studies have found that the Roma prefer to live in small communities made up their extended family. Costarelli, in Il bambino migrante, noted that enforced cohabitation with other groups is often a cause of intense stress for many Roma children. The Roma I interviewed were strongly opposed to the possibility of living with groups beyond their kinship community.

53. Ordinanza del Sindaco No. 80 , 23 January 1996.

54. Similar huts housed homeless Umbrians after the earthquake of 1997 and provoked public protest concerning their ‘inhuman’ conditions.

55. Many of the Roma who did not meet the legal criteria for living in an official camp were obliged to move to the increasingly overcrowded unauthorized camps.

56. Cartolano, Maurizio (Interviews, 1998 and 1999) responsible for Roma issues, Ufficio Immigrati e Nomadi , Comune di Roma.

57. Giovanni Loddoni (Interview, 1998) Deputy Director, Nucleo Aiuto agli Emarginati , Polizia Municipale di Roma.

58. My Roma contacts complained bitterly about their living conditions. When asked what form of accommodation would be ideal, they described small houses, with a garden and the possibility of having animals, in proximity only to members of their extended family, but stressed the financial impossibility of ever achieving this goal.

59. The right-wing party Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance) formed in 1993–95 which absorbed most of the post-fascist party, the MSI, when it dissolved in 1995. It is currently in the centre-right coalition government elected in 2001. See Newell, , Parties and Democracy.

60. Rom Rudari are one of the fifteen estimated ethnic groups of Zingari in Rome, although there is much debate about the numbers and forms of self-ascription of the various communities in the city. Originally from Romania, these Rudari families were based in Serbia until the 1960s when they moved to Italy. Grga, Mirko and Mauri, Andrea, ‘I gruppi zingari a Roma’, Lacio Drom , 2, 1997, pp. 1318.

61. The announcement was made during a meeting with members of the Regional government. Il Messaggero , 19 February 1999, p. 25.

62. Portelli, Alessandro, ‘Un pomeriggio bestiale’, Il Manifesto , 2 October 1999; Portelli, Alessandro, ‘Il volto duro della capitale in piazza’, Il Manifesto, 3 October 1999.

63. ERRC, Il paese dei campi.

64. di Roma, Caritas, Immigrazione.

65. Il Messaggero , 14 July 1999, p. 35 and Il Messaggero, 3 November 1999, p. 32.

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