One week since the start of the events in Casal Bruciato, we are still debating the criteria for allocating social housing and for the integration of the Roma currently housed in camps that the city would like to close. In the aftermath of the protests by CasaPound against the housing of the Omerovic family in the building in Via Satta, we are already seeing that the social housing applications and the regulations governing them are being re-examined. So far, two provisions in particular have been questioned, on the argument that they are “unbalanced” toward favoring the Roma families who have been trying to leave the slums for years: one that favors larger families, and one that awards extra points to those whose current housing situation is considered inadequate.
There are rumors going around that Rome’s municipal housing department, which has been forcefully defending the social housing assignments attacked by the xenophobes, will implement some changes to “balance out” the influence of certain variables on the final lists of those who are awarded social housing. This would jeopardize the already-difficult work of closing down the camps and offering the Roma housing solutions that meet the legal standards.
In this context, a very different message has come from the European Union, which has repeatedly reprimanded Italy in the past regarding their management of the Roma issue. The EU said the Lazio Region’s public housing law, adopted in 1999, is “discriminatory against the Roma populations”—an issue for which the Commission has already initiated and completed a pre-infringement procedure.
The news was announced by Alessandra Sartore, Lazio Regional Councilor for budget affairs: “The European Commission (EC) has requested information concerning the allocation of social housing,” she said, explaining that the accusation is that “Roma people have been discriminated against by requirements such as a proof of previous residence and a proof of eviction, which, due to their actual situation, they are not able to provide.”
The EC says that this violates the European directive that introduced “the principle of equal treatment between persons, irrespective of their racial or ethnic origin.” Therefore, according to the EU’s assessment, not only is there no such thing as a provision “favoring” the Roma in the allocation of social housing, but they are in fact being singled out and penalized compared to other citizens.
The news of the complaint by the European Commission has ignited strong reactions among the figures currently on the campaign trail. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini went on the attack. According to him, the very idea that the Commission would insist on the allocation of housing for Roma “is madness: yet another reason to vote for the Lega.” He doubled down on this notion in a stump speech in the village of Ciociaro di Veroli, in the province of Frosinone: “Are we discriminating against the Roma?” he asked rhetorically. “For me, it’s Italians first, and the rest of the world second.”
Georgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy had a similar message, seizing the opportunity to turn this into a call to vote for her far-right party as a rejection of a diktat being imposed by Europe. Likewise, Lazio Regional Councilor Fabrizio Gera, also from the Brothers of Italy, has been particularly talkative these days as families who were lawfully assigned social homes are under siege—his message being “let’s have sovereignty instead.”
On Wednesday, Salvini was grilled on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies about the xenophobic protests at Casal Bruciato and the controversy that erupted around the tolerant attitude shown towards the neo-fascist groups by the authorities in charge of maintaining public order. The questioning came from Riccardo Magi, from Radicali Italiani (+Europa), who asked Salvini in direct terms about the media spectacle of the xenophobic riot staged by CasaPound in the neighborhood close to Tiburtina.
“It’s not possible to allow setting up a TV stage set that would allow a 48-hour non-stop airing of hand-to-hand fighting between those who are screaming racial slurs and death threats and the legitimate beneficiaries of a social apartment: such activities should be stopped,” Magi stressed.
The minister, on the defensive, confirmed what had already been announced by the Roman police after the complaints filed by the trade unions, civic associations and social movements about the space that was effectively given over to the neo-fascists: “Seventeen people are being investigated by the police for resisting against the authorities and other crimes,” Salvini announced. He tried to reassure everyone that the police are “working to ensure the rights of the persons who have been threatened and to prevent disorder. No type of violence will ever be tolerated.”