An Italian mayor’s plan to use separate bus lines for Roma people has sparked controversy among the town’s politicians over what has been called the latest in a series of “ridiculous” human-rights violations that plague the Roma in Europe.
Claudio Gambino, mayor of the northern town of Borgaro Torinese, wants separate buses for Roma, who live in a camp of about 600 inhabitants on the town’s outskirts and, he said, "have been afflicting us for more than 20 years." Numerous protests, petitions and Facebook pages have been dedicated to the camp's prompt removal.
"To guarantee the security of our citizens, we need two buses. One for citizens, the other for Roma people," Italian media on Friday quoted Gambino as saying, adding that buses have been plagued by theft and petty violence. Last week a Roma passenger was accused of attempting to steal a 13-year-old boy’s backpack on his first day of school, Italian newspaper La Stampa reported.
City officials said at a town council meeting that there have been constant criminal incidents targeting passengers and that the bus plan does not constitute racism.
More than 80 percent of respondents to a La Stampa reader poll — about 9,000 people — said they agreed with the mayor’s suggestion of separate bus lines.
Human rights activists have sounded alarms over rising discrimination against Roma in the European Union. In France police last year detained a 15-year-old undocumented Roma girl during a school trip and deported her to her native Kosovo under a French government policy that targets Roma for expulsion. In Hungary, home to the far-right Jobbik party — which campaigns on anti-immigration policies — attacks on Roma people regularly make headlines, Amnesty International reported.
Andrey Ivanov, head of the Roma and migrant integration program of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), an EU-sponsored think tank, said Roma are “facing marginalization everywhere.” He called Gambino’s proposal “ridiculous.”
“Any form of racial segregation is illegal,” he said.
Only 15 percent of young Roma adults in EU member states have completed high school or vocational education, compared with more than 70 percent of the general population, according to FRA numbers. Fewer than 30 percent of Roma have paid jobs, and nearly half live in households lacking an indoor kitchen, a toilet, electricity or a shower or bath.
Nichi Vendola, leader of Italy’s Left Ecology Freedom party, told La Stampa on Saturday that "giving people different rights is called apartheid."
Micaela Campana, human-rights supervisor for Gambino's Democratic Party, said the party warned Gambino that "marginalization is never the solution" and that "answering violence by excluding people will not help."
But the bus plan has won the support of the anti-immigration Northern League party, with senior parliamentarian Roberto Calderoli saying, "These are the real problems. I send my compliments to Borgaro's administration, which — despite being left wing — has listened to the people."
With the Agence France-Presse