Housing Conditions of Roma and Travellers - Italy RAXEN National Focal Point

The population of Roma, Sinti and Traveller groups in Italy is estimated at between 120,000 and 150,000 people. The majority (about 60 per cent) are Italian citizens; 40 per cent are foreign citizens who migrated to Italy in different and successive flows, with peaks at the end of the 1970s (due to economic crises in countries of origin) and in the 1990s (following the Balkan wars). Foreign Roma belong to various groups and come mainly from Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia, and recently, also from Romania. Neither Italian nor foreign Roma, Sinti and Traveller populations constitute a homogenous group.

There is a widespread conviction in Italy that Roma, Sinti and Travellers are nomadic populations whose cultures revolve around a nomadic lifestyle. This perception of the Roma as ‘nomads’ permeates all aspects of public policy towards these groups and in particular, housing policies. At the centre of housing policies targeting the Roma is the idea and practice of ‘camps for nomads’ or simply, Roma camps. These camps are frequently located far away from city centres, often close to motorways, railways, or an industrial area not inhabited by non-Roma groups; in some cases, they are even found on former waste dump sites. They are policy-induced segregated structures, often overcrowded and lacking in services and basic infrastructure. Roma camps are often targets of social alarm and hostility from nearby residents, and the decision to locate one in a city’s district is quite often submerged in political controversy.