Giving Memory A Future
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From clichés to anti-Gypsyism

“If the association between foreigners and crime is a widespread cliché broadly held among Italians, the association between Gypsies and crime is a stubborn, firmly rooted prejudice. Eradicating this belief seems to be a hard task indeed (…). Yes, unlawfulness is more frequent among the Roma population than other communities, but it is also true that allegations of the Gypsies’ greater propensity for crime are yet unproven. Casting Roma people as criminals is tantamount to describing all Italians as mafiosi. Yet stereotypical generalizations about Roma people die hard because they contain an extraordinarily suggestive psychological component: everyone thinks being robbed is horrible, but being robbed by ‘nomads’ is even more so!” (Mannoia M., "Zingari che strano popolo!" ['Gypsies, what strange people!'], Roma, XL Edizioni, 2007, pp. 158-9).


Urban legends

Veritable urban legends are being spread about Roma people.
According to one of these legends, the Roma and Sinti people have developed a code of signals to communicate the circumstances of their potential victims between themselves. As A. Dal Lago noted in his book Non-persone. L'esclusione dei migranti in una società globale ['”Non-persons.” Migrants' exclusion in a global society], (Feltrinelli, Milan, 1999, p. 66), there is actually no proof that Roma people really use such a code. This is more likely to be an adaptation of the signs beggars used in the past when drawing “maps” for their daily panhandling, a practice that disappeared in Italy from the early 1960s onwards. According to M. Mannoia, "those alleged maps function as a prosaic device and play an important role as they turn social concern into a tangible threat, hence into a nationwide policy issue." In fact, the inexistent maps become the "scientific" proof of criminal practices used by Roma and Sinti people.


(Cronaca qui, March 10, 2010)

(La Repubblica,
April 1, 2011)


Italy: The Trenitalia incident

In May 2010 the Lazio Regional Office of Trenitalia, part of the National Railways Group, disseminated a form to its staff to monitor how many passengers used the Salone station. The form contained the following note: "Should you notice any Roma passengers, please also mention this in the right-hand part of the box."

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Hostility to Roma and Sinti people is often played upon to curry favor with the electorate.

• OsservAzione "The 'latest' public enemy: Romanian Roma in Italy. The case studies of Milan, Bologna, Rome and Naples", Florence, January 21, 2008.

• OsservAzione "Political participation and media representation of Roma and Sinti in Italy. The case studies of Bolzano-Bolzen, Mantua, Milan and Rome", Florence, July 16, 2006. The research and writing for the report was funded by the OSCE/ODIHR and CPRSI.