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Discriminated, looked at with suspicion, kicked out as they approach. Few peoples have suffered, at least in the last century, the same treatment suffered by Roma and Sinti, the “gypsies”, as they are often called with a derogatory meaning. An innate hatred for most of those people who call themselves “civilized”. This is the result of stories and urban legends as that of nomadic women who kidnap children hiding them under their long skirt. Or of an inadequate policy, unable to make feel at home the representatives of ancient ethnic groups whose “fault” is only to have a strong culture, not evanescent, proud to be shown to others. Traditions acquired in the endless wandering from the east to Europe, where they arrived starting from 800 AD.

The first mistake that is done towards these people is to put them all on the same level, ignoring the social and idiomatic differences among them. “It’s wrong to talk only about Roma – Carlo Stasolla told, president of the “21 Luglio” Association in Rome – we must instead distinguish between Roma and Sinti. Both groups are from India but they arrived in Italy in different periods. Sinti settlements are the oldest ones, while Roma were formed more recently and through several flows of migration, depending on the strain of belonging”. Yes, because there are those of Romanian origin and those of Slavic, with their own customs and ways of life.

A deeply-rooted culture, it was said, but that does not reject integration – just another myth to dispel. It is sufficient to say that 50% have Italian citizenship and only a fifth of those who live among us dwells in camps. Ghettos whose formation “dates back to the ’80s – Stasolla says – by the will of some regional governments, especially the left, who thought that in this way they could preserve their traditions. These initiatives, often taken in good faith, however, have created segregation. It was the origin of what today is perceived as a problem”. But in reality it is not, just look at the numbers. According to the latest survey of the Council of Europe, the gypsy population in Italy is made up of between 120,000 and 180,000 people, ie 0.25% of total Italian residents. A slap to the ones speaking of invasion. In Spain, just to understand, they are about 650,000, 619,000 in Romania, 500,000 in France, and finally 200,000 in Greece.

Despite the minimal presence, the “gypsy problem”, however, is too often artificially and fraudulently made bigger by politics. And this makes Italy the European country with the highest rate of anti-Gypsyism (ie racism against “gypsies”) involving the 86% of our compatriots. Numbers we should not be proud of. This does not mean closing your eyes or justifying incidents of petty crime related to them. A phenomenon also due to isolation which the Roma and Sinti are forced to. Forced to live in the wreckage, in caravans or in makeshift shelters, among the rats, close to the suburbs, where social conflicts are growing day by day. Because in these islands of degradation the resentment between those inside and those outside becomes mutual. Exactly like in Paris’ suburbs or in Brazilian favelas.

But the gypsies are not allowed to cultivate anger in their life conditions. For them there is no inclusion, only marginalization. “Today these people are ghosts in the cities, are excluded from any form of integration – Stasolla bitterly explains – fortunately the investigation of Mafia Capital has made it clear how much speculation there has been behind the management of the camps”. A reality that must be overcome also to resolve conflicts often existing between the various ethnic groups. “It’s normal that there are problems within these structures – the president of the “21 Luglio” says – you cannot force people to live together”. But which is, then, the solution to give Roma and Sinti their dignity back? “We need to put them in the emergency housing giving them council houses. We must avoid differentiated policies that make them look different”. Of course, “to do so, political will and specific measures are needed, that, maybe, will not bring votes”. And it is for that, probably, that they will never be implemented.

Translation provided by Maria Rosaria Mastropaolo

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