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April 21 2011

Press Release

Holy Week. Sorrowful week for Roma and immigrants in Rome. The inadequate response of the city.

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In the heart of the Holy Week, before Easter, on the eve of the beatification of John Paul II, the Community of Sant'Egidio expresses astonishment, concern and disappointment at the recent choice of the Administration of Rome against Roma and refugees arrived in these days from North Africa. It can't be seen a "policy" and even less a "policy of welcoming and humanity" matching the role of Rome and its national and international responsibilities.

Many Roma were evicted in recent weeks and in these days without an alternative (but the proposal to divide families) and about immigrants the quick answer on several occasions, not only by the press, but also in operational meetings, has been to point out that "they must not come to Rome.

As Christians and as citizens we believe that this can not be the face of Rome. It is a serious signal, of lack of ideas, of inability to vision, wrong message sent to citizenship, which encourages unjustified closure and hardness.

Whereas at the beginning of April the European Commission issued a document for inclusion of Roma, in conjunction with the International Day of Roma, daily and repeated evictions of Roma families living in "spontaneous settlements" began in Rome.

It began with small settlements, but in recent days there has been an escalation, unknown to the public, but not the Roma and the Community of Sant'Egidio, which covered larger settlements: from Lungotevere S. Paolo to via Severini, to the former Mira Lanza. Yesterday, Wednesday, was evacuated a field with 270 people in via del Flauto.

The day after the death of four children burned on via Appia the Administration announced that abusive shack camps would have been closed, with the people moved thereby to suitable and worthy places of welcome: first there was talk of tent camps and barracks, then the Refugee Service Center, the CARA of Castelnuovo di Porto. Certainly not definitive solutions, but a way to ensure safety at least in the short term.

Contrary to what was announced, the families evicted were not proposed to move to a structure, but only the possibility to split: women and children to the CARA, men in the street. It's a proposal already made in the past and we already know the outcome: no family wants to split up (remember that the Roma families are made up of people, mothers, fathers, children, and that no non-Roma citizens, would never be proposed the division of families as policy of security and integration). As is obvious, but to the planners and responsible for social policies in our city - and unfortunately also in other parts of Italy - no one accepts solutions that scatter families. The refusal has the consequence of the dispersion of whole families on the city territory, in conditions even more precarious and insecure. And with the interruption of the path of social integration and education.

The result is that today more than 600 people have to wander the city without a place to sleep: among them many children. Some of them, following the evictions have already been suspended - for the n-th time - the path of integration in schools short before the end of the school year. As an example, please note that the family that has suffered the terrible loss of four children burned was on our territory for 10 years and had already suffered thirty evictions, with results that can be imagined for the education and exit from the marginalization.

It is clear that if the concerns that led to do evictions is the safety of residents and prevent further tragedies among Roma and Roma children, now those children are more at risk than before: to wander with their families in search of a new place where to sleep does not improve the problems of public order in the city. The evictions continued and the "Snakes game" with no solutions with the Roma families also makes it more difficult to monitor the legality by law enforcement officials who lose contact with established residential areas. With negative consequences so clear that it is useless to explain that much.
But the evictions, meanwhile, show the inability of Rome to play a leading role in a policy of acceptance and integration. Certainly at contrast with the character of capital not only of the nation, but also of Catholicism.

As for migrants arriving in Italy in recent weeks from Tunisia and Libya, the response of the capital was no better. While we watch images of bombings and refugees, while still mourning the dead at sea, as is known, a national case was created for two transiting buses that have "made a stop" at Grottarossa, for one night, up to fence them and watch them for a few hours of stay. Beyond the exaggeration and ridicule, once again this has endorsed a mood of undue alarm in the population and the belief that "Rome is full" in a time when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and perhaps over a million people are expected. In these days, still, the story keeps track of immigrant people at Termini Station, according to the Administration, "shall have to leave as soon as possible".

The Community of Sant'Egidio asks:

• to stop the evictions of Roma from the informal camps if unable to offer viable and dignified alternative to the entire household.

• to discontinue any social intervention or "social inclusion" that would consider it natural to divide families, to the detriment of educational processes, training and public policy.

• that the City handles the current situation of North African immigrants, taking into account the national and international context, remembering that they are refugees with a valid residence permit.

• to provide the city of Rome (and the metropolitan and regional context) temporary reception centers with an orientation and mediation action which will then send the refugees in other places in an appropriate and well-targeted manner, in due time to build intelligent pathways and not at random.

 The capital has human, economic, spiritual and cultural resources to address an eve - even promising - of change of the world, without hiding ourselves in a path of permanent emergency or in the scared logic of the "closed city" or of those who say that "the boat is full. " We want an urgent rethinking and a change of direction so that Rome can match its history, its name and tradition of hospitality and universality that is known and loved around the world.

Piazza di S.Egidio 3/a – 00153 Roma - Tel 39.06585661  -  Fax 39.065883625   Email – [email protected]

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