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Roma in Italy, Roma in Reggio Calabria

RomaTravellers Team VisualID1 ENThe Roma Of Italy 


The Roma, Sinti and Caminanti (RSC) communities in Italy are characterized by the heterogeneity of the groups, by their linguistic-dialectal variety, as well as by different cultures. The various attempts over the years to promote integration, inclusion and their recognition as a minority (national or linguistic), confirm the complexity of the condition of Roma, Sinti and Caminanti. This status quo can be well understood, if we take into account the fact that when we talk about RSC communities, we are referring to: Italian citizens; foreign citizens belonging to other EU countries; foreigners, citizens of non-European countries; foreigners, who have been granted the right to asylum or subsidiary protection; (de facto) stateless people, born in Italy from de facto stateless people In particular, it should be borne in mind that, at present, the minority of RSC is not concentrated in a specific area of the national territory, but rather spread throughout the country.

The old conception, which associated these communities with the exclusive connotation of «nomadism», an outdated term both from a linguistic and a cultural point of view and which, moreover, does not give a correct picture of the current situation, has been overcome. More specifically, according to Piasere , Roma, Sinti and Caminanti communities fall into: «a so-called polythetic category made up of elements that resemble each other in something, but for different traits; the flexibility of the conceptual structure of this category has allowed to include historically a fairly composite variety of people, with different cultural components».

The word Roma is therefore a universal term, referring to a myriad of groups and subgroups, characterized by a number of similarities, including language, ways of life, cultural traditions and family organization. Moreover, «over time, individual cultural specificities have interpenetrated and merged with elements of other populations, with which they have come into contact, creating powerful mixtures and irregular forms of life with respect to the assumed Roma archetype». In the light of the growing and increasingly meaningful international, regional, EU and national obligations, the respect of fundamental rights (art.2 of the Italian Constitution) and the application of the principle of formal and substantial equality (art.3, paragraphs 1 and 2, of the Italian Constitution) require, today, in an urgent manner, the implementation of appropriate and specific measures: in particular, to facilitate the inclusion of these communities, whose living conditions continue to be characterized by an objective disadvantage. In view of this, it is necessary to overcome the welfarist and/or emergency approach and implement appropriate and specific measures, so that equality, equal treatment (art. 3 of the Italian Constitution) and the ownership of fundamental rights and duties (art.2 of the Italian Constitution) are fully affirmed.

The reference to Article 3 of the Constitution, which recognizes the equal social dignity of all citizens, seems essential for the condition of Roma, Sinti and Caminanti, populations often discriminated against, marginalized and stigmatized. It is estimated that on the national territory there are 120 thousand/180 thousand Roma, Sinti and Caminanti, half of whom are Italian and the other half, although foreign, are mostly settled.

The visibility of Roma settlements on the outskirts of the large urban centers of Central-Northern and Northern Italy sometimes leads to overlook the significant presence of these communities in other areas of the territory.  In Scampia (Naples), where over 1,500 Roma of Yugoslavian origin live, the first presences have been attested since the end of the 1980s: the second generation of Yugoslavian Roma, born in Scampia, is in fact Italian. Even in Apulia, and on the border between Molise and Abruzzo, there have been presences for more than ten years, mostly settled. In Noto, Sicily, the community of Caminanti has been living there since the late fifties (even if there are forms of «semi-nomadism» for some of them), while the North of Italy is characterized by a prevalent presence of Sinti. This situation brings with it the consequence of the affirmation of multiculturalism and multiethnicity in the social structure. The variability of the population as a result of the processes of intraand extra-European mobility, which have been consolidating over the years, means that in some areas of the country the foreign presence, legalized or not, assumes dimensions of absolute importance, with a not indifferent contribution to the economic and welfare development of the country.

The intercultural Italian way

Although immigration so-called extra-Community beginnings to become a mass phenomenon in Italy only since at least the early 90s, some attention to the reception issues of diversity was the one featured on the level of general principles which refer, both in terms of acts of experimental education directed to the topic of the multicultural society.

It should also be noted that the same historical presence of Roma and Sinti Italians had forced educational institutions to pose the inclusion of community school problem considered the bearers of cultural otherness. Just the «gypsy» presence constitutes the beginnings of a theoretical reflection on cultural diversity which will be applied to new flows of migrants.

The term intercultural appears in 1978 in a document of the Council of Europe, and the importance of the concept is again resumed in a publication in 1989 of the Board. This new perspective has as its representatives not only migrants, but citizens of several European countries that were engaging in merger processes. The prospect of an intercultural education will characterize Italy in a much more significant than in other European countries.

The term «intercultural education» enters for the first time in the official programs of Italian medium schools in 1979, and this is repeated in any subsequent documents such as those of 1985, which extends the cross-cultural perspective, even in elementary school, in elementary school reform 1990 in the guidelines for the nursery of 1991 and in the programs for secondary school in 1992. interculturalism is not seen as an ancillary dimension, which school curricula have to comply, but rather as a process based on a relationship of dialogue , where cultures rather than oppose or stand as waterproof and locked sets, tend to merge, making themselves available to trade and mutual cultural contamination.

To support this process the Ministry shall establish as early as 2004 the General Directorate for Students, with a competent special office dedicated to school integration of foreign students and Roma.

The following section will be devoted to the analysis of the Italian school legislation concerning the education of Roma children and foreigners, thus providing a more detailed report on this intercultural Italian way.

Strategies of the Calabria region

The Calabria Region with DGR 122 of 2014 approved the strategic guidance document of operational planning 2014-2020. In line with the Europe 2020 strategy, the Region intends to  pursue the strategic objective of active inclusion and combating poverty Regional, making emerge from extreme poverty a significant percentage of the population through a multidimensional approach.

The region, not having a structured plan aimed at the integration of the RSC, intends to launch a program of interventions in line with the EU Guidelines on the subject and ROM 2012-2020 national strategy with public-private consultation tools, from table Regional coordination, already operating in Calabria, in order to identify key priorities and co-designer of inclusion interventions. Programming for 2014-2020, the region has a specific priority actions for the RSC populations: reducing extreme marginality and implement actions in favor of Roma, Sinti and Travellers in line with the national strategy for Roma integration, concentrating in the areas most critical with the aim of giving the Roma families essential services needed to advance the integration and job autonomy and start territorial consultation processes involving, institutional bodies and associations representing the Roma community. On the topic of extreme marginality, the Region intends to integrate infrastructure work relating to housing and social and health facilities with support measures for homeless people in the path towards autonomy.

Among the priorities in terms of inclusion defines the Region:

  • Reduction in the number of families living in hardship through innovative housing models aimed to the increase of social and housing services housing for vulnerable categories for economic and social reasons;
  • Reduction of poverty and social exclusion along the three lines of income support, social and work integration (in integration with the means provided in the OT 8), and the improvement of services. The priority involves strengthening administrative sectors (social services, employment, health services, education, services for justice) and the qualification of social workers. The region also provides for the integration of interventions to counteract poverty with Community and national instruments provided, such as the Fund for European Aid to Indigent (FEAMD) at European level and support for active inclusion (SIA) level
  • Boosting employability and participation in the labor market of the most vulnerable persons, victims of violence or serious exploitation and at risk of discrimination, supporting the taking paths (disabled, drug addicts, prisoners, victims of violence, exploitation, foreign holders international protection, etc ..) aimed at integrating the circuits working, and strengthening the entrepreneurial capacity of the social unrest categories also making use of social innovation
  • Increased legality in high social exclusion areas; improvement of the urban fabric, in low-rate areas of law, through support to the goods and confiscated companies for institutional, social, cultural and economic fields and to facilitate job placement opportunities and through the development of prevention to judicial redress system through measures of education in the legal actions (at schools, educational institutions, local communities) and street education with the involvement of the third sector and the strengthening of public-private
  • Increased economic activity (profit and non-profit) with social content and social farming activities (in integration with the OT 3 – Competitiveness of productive systems) through the strengthening of the activities of social enterprises, encouraging networks and systems regional and interregional co-operation between business and government producing services for the local area, encouraging economic activities to high social, environmental and educational. Social promotion of Agriculture is instead addressed to enhance the role of multifunctional agriculture and the pursuit of therapeutic purposes, rehabilitation, hospitality and social integration, job placement and training closely geared to working in agricultural practices to disadvantaged

The Roma of Reggio Calabria

In the city of Reggio Calabria, the Roma have been struggling for years against residential segregation, asking to live fairly distributed throughout the territory and in the districts together with non-Roma, according to the model of ethnic-social mix. The meaning of this request lies in the fact that living is a crucial element for the social inclusion of every person, because living in a house is not simply occupying a comfortable space, but it is a complex phenomenon, made up of relationships, which according to the social characteristics of neighbors allows inclusion in the community or vice versa exclusion.

For the application of this housing model, the Roma of Reggio Calabria have followed a long, difficult path, which began fifty years ago with their settlement in the city and continues today. This path can be divided into two phases. In the first phase, which goes from the fifties to 1992, the requests of the Roma were not heard, and therefore the housing model recognized and applied was that of segregation. In the second phase, from 1993 to 2008, the demands of the Roma began to be followed, and therefore the housing system of fair dislocation was born.

The problem of school inclusion

Another of the problems faced by the Roma community in Reggio Calabria was school inclusion. In the 70s and 80s, there were few cases in which Roma children attended public schools. The drop-out rate was very high, many of them ended up doing manual labour (collecting iron or copper) or committing crimes (housebreaking or robbery). Things started to change at the end of the 1990s when early school leaving was dealt with at national level and schools became aware that the problem had to be tackled. This led to a renewal of the teaching strategies, the improvement of teachers’ training and the opening up of the school to resources outside the school.

Many school inclusion projects were launched in synergy with parishes and social services. They tried to involve Roma children through workshop activities such as choir, the use of musical instruments, motor and expressive activities. They tried to transmit knowledge about the cultural and social context of the Roma population and to develop an intercultural approach. Today we can say that the inclusion of Roma in schools can be considered a success . Many children continue beyond compulsory schooling and study for a diploma.  There are no reports of students going on to higher education.

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