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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

V World Congress of the Pastoral Care for Gypsies

Budapest (Hungary), 30 June – 7 July 2003


Policies in Support of

the Human and Social Promotion of Gypsies


Dr Pinuccia Scaramuzzetti


Overall considerations


“On every continent there are people like gypsies. On every continent non-gypsies have ideas about gypsies and encounters with them” (Okeley quoted in Sigona 2002:48). This study aims to reflect on the fact that this attitude objectively exists and on the ways in which this encounter develops.

The gipsy world is called “a world of worlds”[1]in the title of a book (Piasere 1999), and we could call the world of social policies in favour of Roma people “a world of contradictions” because any effort to solve a problem brings in its wake other difficulties that in turn need to be solved.

Obviously, no initiative is designed to do harm, their goals have always been positive, and their appearance on the political and social scene is a sign of civil society’s progress, both after or together with attitudes of persecution and repression[2]. Nevertheless, I would venture to assert that none of the initiatives I know of has achieved its stated goal, either through lack of knowledge of the objective or the beneficiaries, or due to the brevity of the project. This happens in many cases and is a decisive factor in environments where inconsistency is very frequent, although everything must be given plenty of time to work. There is undoubtedly an unknown variable. There are also aspects that can be criticised, unexpected things happen along the way, hostile situations crop up that are difficult to overcome, and we must be constantly willing to change course so as not to lose sight of the objective. Also in our society there are inevitably aspects that make the treatment worse than the illness: the unwillingness of institutions to be flexible, turnover of workers, political variability and the precariousness of economic contributions. All of these elements, together with the instability of Roma beneficiaries, run up against the sluggishness of bureaucracy. Conclusive confirmation is almost never reached with the same beneficiaries and the same workers. Some short-term projects that have led to dependency or proxy representation among Roma people[3], have weakened the hegemony of the whole (Piasere, records 1990:32) or in any case reduced the capacity for self-determination and left indelible scars. Any brief period in which an institutional initiative is undertaken alternates with long periods of silence (Sigona 2002:107).

For these reasons, it seems to me more important to think about the hypotheses, the ways in which they develop, elements of success and failure and their recurrence, the nearness and distance they create between Gadje and Roma, and between Rom and Rom, and thus consider an exemplary situation rather than give an overview of the policies in progress. Reflecting on my own experience and personal meetings, I would start with these considerations. Social policies stem from assumptions regarding:

  • the personal approach of the observer,
  • the concept and knowledge one has of the person in question,
  • the goal one wishes to achieve,
  • the viewpoint and expectations of the person to whom the initiative is addressed,
  • the broader social context in which the action takes place.

The approach

The kind of approach depends on professional milieus and historical periods. The common denominator, with the exception of gypsy associations, which we will discuss when the opportunity arises, is belonging to the Gadje world and in any case being “outsiders”, although to varying extents. ”On observing a system of relations in which we are involved, we inevitably reflect on matters relating to our involvement. There is no such thing as an innocent regard, if for no other reason than the meaning that words have taken on over the centuries.” (Brunello 1996:12)

In Italy, the first people to get close to the world of Roma and Sinti were undoubtedly connected with the Church or were teachers, followed by social workers, linguists, anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists and politicians. Each of them wishes to achieve objectives considered vital in their particular field, vital for gypsies, but above all for themselves, for their ideologies, for carrying out projects, for completing research and for drawing up political actions. Each person has their own different personal motives which have made gipsies emerge from the background to which they were relegated, in the sphere which Goffman defines as inattention (Sigona 2002:47).

My approach – I will take this opportunity to introduce myself – is rather mixed as I am motivated by an ecclesial interest, but am also influenced by my educational training, my experience as a teacher and an anthropological passion which is more intuitive than truly scientific. The skills that some say I have mainly stem from having lived for almost thirty years with a small group of Slovene Roma together with three other people (a priest and two lay women), from having compared ourselves with other small communities in Italy that lived through a similar experience to our own[4]and therefore shared with us a deep knowledge of other groups, from having known other people in Italy who work in the social field, and from always having been able to compare experiences with numerous friends[5]. However, my knowledge is exclusively in an Italian context, although the news that I get from other European countries[6]shows that there are many similarities, and my approach is essentially experiential.

The image of gypsies

Until the early 1970s, the image of gypsies (although the Church was already talking about inculturation) was of poor people in need of help or deviants. The same attitude was adopted towards them as to mentally retarded children: the children went to a special school, were washed and had their clothes changed at school; the adults were more or less given adequate assistance. The word “gypsy” encompassed a general stereotype which also justified the initiatives of local authorities who grouped together all the gypsies in the town in a single camp. Gypsies were people who didn’t want to lead “normal” lives[7], through the fault of others or of their own choice, and there were other Gadje[8]of good will - as this was not yet considered to be the “duty” of institutions and a “gypsy citizens’ right” – who tried to improve their living conditions by bringing them closer to normality, which meant a house, education, employment and wearing short skirts. Only later did lovers of minorities, out of respect for other cultures, also begin to include gypsy groups within these categories and consider the differences among the various groups themselves.

Anthropologists and ethnographers became interested in the various aspects of their culture, interpreting them in accordance with parameters used in the study of other minority groups and observing with some fascination the significant moments of their lives.

*For anthropologists Roma[9]are interesting people.

 Sociologists sought the motives and the culprits for their social marginalization, and bit by bit came up with reasons – such as the disappearance of traditional trades – which later proved to be of little significance.

*For sociologists Roma are marginalized people who need to recover their rightful place in society.

Teachers, who undertake the task of teaching a set curriculum with organised teaching materials and homework, sought reasons - or rather were requested to by ministerial circulars (1996), educational directors and educationalists interested in cultural exchange - to explain why satisfactory schooling was unobtainable and experimented with new teaching methods. Rom and Sinti pupils are often considered as problematic and treated with pity, contempt or indifference.

*Teachers do not feel to blame if such pupils do not learn: one cannot invest in the success of such people.

People engaged in politics seek legislative areas that enable Roma and Sinti to have their rights safeguarded in respect of their culture, especially with regard to their dwelling habits. Regional legislation and Ministry the Interior circulars focus mainly on the housing problem, although they do contain considerations on educational and training issues. There are no professionals among politicians, however, so approaches are different and depend on personal background as well as the party: 

*some politicians see Roma as dangerous individuals (or a group) who undermine the security of the social order and should be kept at a distance[10],

*others see them as people to be put up with so that they can achieve a sufficiently respectable life style in accordance with the law and in harmony with the host society, where the good of the host society is not a secondary factor.

For everyone, especially those who act at the operational level,

*Roma are people without history, who come from nowhere.

 One day a Rom “comes” to their attention, and they consider themselves to be the first and only ones to have taken notice, without linking their action to any previous one, without thinking that the person in front of them has already lived somewhere else and built up a fabric of relations. Only schools ask to see papers and sometimes get in touch with other teachers. It seems to me that other workers do not seek references to find out whether such people have been part of a social context, or what problems and successes they have previously experienced. I’m not talking about distances of hundreds of kilometres, but getting information across among neighbouring municipalities, and from one district to the next, would seem obvious.

I think that in each of the areas under consideration, one-sided aspects of people are highlighted which are not always mutually exclusive. Indeed, some of them undoubtedly exist side by side in the Roma people we meet, but with a characteristic that is marked to a greater or lesser extent.

The aim

Know oneself to learn to accept oneself is a common catchphrase, but also a debatable one and anthropologists do not usually give such a moral connotation. Their aim is to know how - and above all have a cognitive framework that enables labelling and interconnection of information – to disseminate and make knowledge available. Therefore, to take part in working groups where concrete situations are considered and projects that already been implemented are reflected upon[11].

Sociologists wish to break down barriers and remove the obstacles that prevent Roma from leading decent lives and also devise social integration programmes, which is why they support initiatives and projects designed for this purpose. Their work is used by institutions, especially municipalities, and also by non-governmental organisations and non-profit cooperatives which carry out this kind of activity in Italy: camp management, educational support to pupils in compulsory education, work training, etc.

Even though schools have been among the main interlocutors for gypsies in recent decades, it is true that this cultural group is not very well known either from the anthropological or from the sociological point of view[12]. Here too, the collective image of gypsies predominates, and it may be said that interest in gypsy children is, at best, aimed at obtaining a school leaver’s certificate so that they can find a job and integrate into society and become like everyone else.  Little attention is paid to full acquisition of skills that enable reflection on their own culture and interaction with the culture of the dominant society. This means that there are young people with a secondary school leaver’s certificate who are almost illiterate. What goals can they achieve?

The aim of politicians is to promote projects that please the greatest possible number of people. According to various ideologies, this aim can be achieved through exclusion: by distancing gypsies from towns through expulsion and evacuation of gipsy camps; through assimilation, by promoting initiatives that eliminate diversity and make them become like other people; or by integrating them with respect for differences. Often, exclusion is the only method that is concluded. Assimilation meets with resistance from those concerned, and integration projects come up against resistance from the majority of the host society, who accept the value of integration but prefer not to be involved in the process.

The beneficiaries’ viewpoint

All of these initiatives, often implemented by non-profit associations and cooperatives, are aimed at gypsies, who in Italy are Roma (belonging to different groups) or Sinti (who may manifest internal differences) and can be roughly divided into two groups: passive beneficiaries of projects who seek to reap maximum benefits, and those who wish to participate directly, either as group leaders or to enjoy a privileged position in the host society, and also obtain material benefits. Both groups look warily at how the money earmarked “for them” is used (allocated for various projects). They are unable to quantify it and to understand why people who have always been hostile towards them should spend money on them, how much is needed for projects underway and whether someone is taking personal advantage of them. When Gadje are handling the money, this wariness is simply a fraction of the wariness evoked by the whole Gadje world, but when Sinti are doing so, the problem is exacerbated[13]because a situation of mutual dependence arises which is not in line with their tradition.

Wariness as to how money is used is compounded by apportionment of requests. Everyone has their own expectations, and presents the issues in their own light, which does not depend only on theoretical considerations but on friendship and family ties, and agreements and disagreements, which means that an initiative in progress can no longer continue due to a dispute, etc. Self-determining projects often fail because someone refuses to go along with them, or doesn’t do their bit, or doesn’t wish to be bound by collective decisions, but also because what is decided today may be implemented at a time when family alliances and the availability of the leadership may have changed. 

For the young leaders, who have studied and promoted cultural demands, rights such as non-discrimination are for relations with Gadje, and in fact they have a separate life even though they sometimes belong to associations that promote social objectives.

The influence of the social environment

The effects of the social, economic and political situation of the host society on the lives of Roma, and thereby on possibilities for their culture to grow, are great. Living in a “Sinti country”[14], in a country “good for begging” or in a poor country, which even the other inhabitants emigrate from to escape poverty, makes a difference. It makes a difference because it means that there will, or will not, be a stream of foreign Roma with whom to share resources, which will, or will not, be made available by social policies. It also makes a difference to be ten percent of the local population, or such a small number as not even to be taken into consideration among the minorities.

Results from the quoted questionnaire show, for example, that all the countries of so-called Western Europe are affected by Roma immigration from Romania. Although less “well-known” in the sense of the first consideration, due to their needy situation, they urgently call upon the settled community of member countries, and often the response does not take account of existing relations between Gadje and Roma[15]. Reaction is the same as to an earthquake (I’m thinking of reactions I know about in Italy). The fact of being faced with an emergency allows for precarious and segregating solutions that start off as being temporary, but as is the case for earthquakes, no one knows when they will finish.

Economic collapse in Eastern European countries has led to a resurgence of racist violence. Roma have had the highest unemployment rates together with the residents of suburban districts in the towns where they live. This has generated an attitude of rejection and intolerance.[16] The fact that such a high number of Romanian children are abandoned in orphanages (45% of those in care) means that the situation of poverty leads to sacrifice of the weakest elements (Piasere, records), in contradiction of the clichés about Roma’s attachment to their children.

The war in the former Yugoslavia, first in Bosnia and then in Kosovo, included the Roma coming from these countries within the category of refugees who swelled the populations of the large camps of Roma from Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo in Turin, Brescia, Mestre, Florence, Pisa and Naples (which sadly made news headlines when it was set on fire by the residents of the Scampia district)[17].

Local legislation also determines the choices of foreign Roma, especially the immigration regulations that govern refugee status. Indeed, many of the social actions aimed at these foreign Roma regard legal assistance to acquire residence permits.

At the same time, certain domestic political choices introduce variations that make distinctions between gipsies from different countries. We must bear in mind that, prior to all this, the fact of having allowing or denied the nomadic life was an element that drove gypsy culture in one way or another. This is why there is a history of settlement in Spain and southern Italy, and later in the former communist countries. This has also influenced kinds of dwelling, work choices, education, use of language and kinds of clothes worn.

Work regulations - such as obligations relating to disposal of polluting substances (for scrap metal collectors), registration at the chamber of commerce (for the purchase and sale of various items), taxes for use of public spaces (travelling shows and street trading) and tax receipts (funfairs) – also affect Roma and Sinti citizens, or Sinti funfair workers, just like any other citizen.

Equal opportunities

Removal of obstacles 

In Italy, legislative measures regarding Roma and Sinti, in force since the early 1970s, should have enabled implementation of what is sanctioned by the Italian Constitution under art. 3: “to eliminate any economic or social obstacle that might limit the liberty and equality of citizens, thereby hindering the full development of people and effective participation by all workers in the nation’s political, economic and social organisation”. Economic and social obstacles are, for example, those that make it difficult to achieve “significant” educational results, to have access to housing solutions and employment activities adapted to their culture (not the least of which are travelling shows that are increasingly obstructed), and maintenance of their own language and customs to be seen as positive differences with no cause for shame.

An initial circular from the Ministry of the Interior in 1973 asked mayors to remove obstacles preventing Roma from setting up camps, as per the provision of 1985, which establishes these priorities: registration, schooling and removal of no-stay orders. It criticises the use of evacuation orders “which are limited to displacing problems of hygiene and public health together with itinerant people” rather than resolving them.

Twenty years on, these obstacles have yet to be overcome.

Some municipalities have set up offices for foreigners and itinerant people, to deal with problems relating to all gypsies, including Santi who have always been Italian citizens, which goes to show to what extent gypsies are considered as foreigners.

Regional legislation

As of 1984, some Italian regions enacted legislation aimed at protecting the Roma ethnic group and culture. This stemmed from two forces[18]which although opposed attract each other: gypsies on the one hand, and non-gypsies on the other, due to the fact that small and self-regulated areas in Italian towns were gradually closed down. The Roma and Sinti no longer knew where to stop, so they requested camps and in exchange were willing to accept certain rules: to send their children to school and to look for work. The Gadje considered it fair to extricate Roma from their precarious situation and therefore granted them camps under their conditions.

The first law was enacted in Veneto. “The Veneto region intends to safeguard Roma culture through appropriate initiatives, including the right to move from place to place and stop within the region”. Similar wording reoccurs in other laws. As public safety regulations prohibit free camping, the right to move from place to place soon became the right to stay in authorised camps. Even the right to stop is elusive. In places where the authorities have not set up appropriate areas, a civil servant might always say: “They’re gypsies? Then they should move on!” It is significant that the funds allocated every year, although only small amounts, are not used by the region. Some municipalities prefer to act on their own to avoid being bound by regional directives.

In the same way, the safeguarding of culture soon turned out to be an unattainable utopia. Indeed, if safeguarding a culture implies recognition of the right to exist and develop in accordance with internal requirements, it is strange that when not turning a deaf ear to any kind of initiative, an institution rather busies itself in adapting the life style of Roma and Sinti to that of the host society. Attention is primarily focused on a permanent camp, which is considered as an obvious priority, and shifts from legislation to camp regulations, which are designed to prevent any conceivable trouble. In many cases they are designed to regulate gypsies’ lives and their stay through a series of rules and prohibitions that determine entry criteria, everyday habits and punishments.[19] In reality, these laws and regulations are usually a repetition - which sets in motion actual discrimination - of public order regulations to which Roma and Sinti, just like other citizens, are already subject, and indicate a series of measures that are rather aimed at defending the settled population from persons held to be dangerous. Sometimes attempts are even made to distinguish between “good” and “bad” gypsies, such as providing an ethnic card to differentiate between those who may, or may not, enter a camp.[20] A kind of star of David to define those who can enter the ghetto.

The best laws are the least “defined”, those with the fewest barriers and the most flexible to cover the most varied situations. The arrival in Italy over the last ten years of foreign Roma coming from long periods of settlement, and the tendency to ignore differences between gipsy communities, means that many of these laws are already inadequate. The law in Friuli Venezia introduces an interesting observation. It proposes to safeguard “the specific cultural values, historical identity and the processes of change taking place among Roma” thereby maintaining the possibility of evolution by adapting to new situations.

Moving and stopping[21]

We used to go from village to village with horses and carts. Sometimes in the evening we stopped to stay at a dairy farm. The farmers let us use a stable or shed and gave us some straw to sleep on, some soup and milk for the children…

These words of Bibì Alda, a Sinta from Piedmont, have been repeated many times by Sinti from Veneto and Lombardy, by Slovenian Roma, Roma from Abruzzo and Calabria, etc.

Together with the usual harking back to the good old days, common to all peoples, there was nostalgia for wandering: our roads, all the little villages I knew… but also for self-determination – to be able to come and go, stop, gather together with a few families, leave those with whom relations were not so good – to be able to decide where, how and with whom, you spend your life.

In Italy, Sinti also used to alternate periods of settlement with periods travelling, in a way that is different from what is possible nowadays. Some passers-by stopped them to have a chat, and occasionally gave them something.

Then towns and villages began to change. Every square metre of land has its purpose, and free spaces don’t exist anymore. Fountains and public toilets have disappeared. It’s necessary to negotiate permission to stay with the authorities. 

The older Sinti, including those who remained beyond the politics of large cities and the traumatic experiences of some xoraxané Roma, believe that "with the camps there is no novelty and the taste for travel and the element of surprise are lacking" and Oliviero, a Sinto from Lombardy, said:"the longer you stay put the less exchange there is, even though few people like to stay in one place for a long time. The camps turn into shantytowns where people neglect themselves. It’s better to travel, with an absolute minimum, but to be on the move.” 

In fact, moving and stopping in different camps concerns a small percentage of Rom and Sinti in Italy. Calabria, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Molise and Abruzzo have a Roma population that has been living in a houses for a long time. In other regions too, there are groups of Sinti and Roma who live in houses owned by themselves or the municipality. “Camps” are referred to more often because they give rise to more problems.

“Gipsy camps”(see annex)

The largest camps, like the one in Turin in the mid-1980s, have brought to light the greatest contradictions: “I’ve received a warning because I put up my son who doesn’t have a permit”; “Notices and expulsion orders arrive every day: one because you haven’t signed on at the job centre, another because you haven’t been vaccinated, another because you don’t go to work… Today I received a notice because one of my children has been absent from school for many days and won’t be able to move up to the next class.”[22]

“The camp is not only an instrument of control, but also the means by which a target group is created, a special group…” (Sigona 2002:13), a group that receives a minimum of social and educational services. 

“Located on the outskirts of towns, the purpose-built camps are artificial structures created in accordance with a municipal urban development plan which doesn’t provide for an adequate site and ample space and, in some cases, also imposes a set layout for each dwelling with respect to the others. “Gypsy camps” were plots of land assigned for rubbish tips or those occupied by illegal allotments. They are mostly municipal plots of land that become places where you find yourself living alongside someone with whom you would probably never have chosen to live with. Illegal camps were anonymous places that became homely precisely because you chose to live there. Over the years, they became areas that were periodically occupied by those who cannot, or decide not, to stay in official camps, thus maintaining relations whereby you avoid the family groups in camps with whom you are at loggerheads. Official camps are areas where non-Roma would most likely never live and places that Roma make homely through organisation of neighbourhood relations involving sub-division of the area into family courtyards. Within the courtyard, whose composition and size is flexible, specific family and other relations are recreated”[23].

In most Roma camps, whether illegal settlements or authorised ones, that are overcrowded[24]the situation has become unliveable. The behaviour of the authorities is strongly geared towards monitoring of land use and, degradation plus monitoring have made it increasingly difficult to find places to settle.

Some municipalities have used funds allocated under Decree 390/92 in favour of evacuees from the former Yugoslavia and have set up camps that are halfway between refugee and gypsy camps[25]. Faced with a lack of alternatives, Roma tried to find a place there, also because, with the help of associations, this facilitated acquisition of necessary documents[26]. Even though this is a segregating situation, it allows for maintaining a semblance of normal life in exceptional circumstances. However, no one contemplates the camp model as the ultimate prospect of their lives, saying: until I buy a house or a plot of land… until I’ve got my papers sorted out, until I find a job…

Keeping the “camp” model at arm’s length means pursuing a variety of procedures, which adds up to offering alternatives. The variety of procedures serves in various ways to create appropriateness criteria, in accordance with the diversity of situations, requirements and life plans of those concerned. It means rejecting the idea that a population should be allocated to a particular type of housing. The solutions should correspond both to the demand for settlement and the demand for wandering, and to the various requirements that come from different groups.

Given the difficulty of managing large camps, the current trend is towards small camps organised at the family level. Indications are also given to avoid any form of town planning marginalization. In reality, areas that are ideal and free from other designations are very few and in undesirable locations (the books, The People of the Rubbish Tips by Piasere and Contemptuous Town Planning by Brunello discuss this issue at length). So the outcome is few, overcrowded camps, with several groups together. As the ordinances that prohibit staying within a municipality outside authorised areas - or even awaiting authorisation of such areas - are very common, some groups that used to “pass through” a town remain definitively excluded. This means that there are few camps organised in compliance with the law and many uncontrolled and badly served camps that were the subject of a complaint in “ERRC The Nation of Camps. The Racial Segregation of Roma in Italy” (October 2000).

Outside the camps

The small, family-based camp model, which has been adopted in recent years as the model for its size – not therefore the classic “gypsy camp” – has also had positive effects in terms of the family nature of settlement, the creation of domestic areas, the possibility of self-sufficiency, flexibility of use, and the possibility of maintaining contacts with the extended family. This can also be seen in self-integration within acquired, and thus owned, plots of land. The future for public policies could be to support the private initiatives of those concerned, thereby creating conditions for settlement, eliminating obstacles, and so on.

It’s my impression that, outside camps – Brunello says in his book that the word camp evokes precarious and temporary conditions – Roma and Sinta seek to regain possession of their own lives and the independence and self-determination they had when they travelled around with horses and carts.

I also have the impression that “outside camps” Roma and Sinti cease to be a blurred and frightening mass for the rest of the population, once again have a face and a name, and may be either pleasant or unpleasant neighbours, but on the basis of an equal personal relationship.

They buy or rent a house or buy a plot of land. They settle as if for good, get themselves organised and try to have good neighbourly relations with non-gypsies. They settle down despite all the years that have gone by. Then something – it can be anything – happens: problems with neighbours, someone dies, the children want to start moving again, they let themselves be attracted by other proposals and in a trice they leave everything behind. The trees lovingly planted one by one, the artistically decorated fence, the dear non-gypsy friend, are looked upon with a strange gaze, with detachment, and the reasons for leaving become as strong as those that previously motivated them to settle.

You move around a bit, find another place, in another country, where you might settle again for a few years and once again it will become your country.

In any case, you will be welcome to park your caravan or camper van in the courtyard in front of the house of a friend or relative and stay on his land. He too, will be put up by others if for some reason he has to spend some time away.

One-storey houses with a courtyard, the same type of dwelling but lived in differently, with everyone having their own way of living in their house and keeping it clean. For various reasons: a need to find space, agricultural requirements, cost reduction, space left empty, and housing solutions that involve setting up relations between family groups. Relations with one’s dead also count: as soon as you decide to bury your dead in the local cemetery the place becomes “symbolically marked” (Piasere, 1999), namely meaningful for one’s family.


Why in all countries does the education of children that live in “gipsy camps” produce disappointing results? Why do Roma children attend, or not attend, school? Do families see school as an educational environment?

Tito’s policy encouraged Roma to integrate as much as possible within the nation’s social and economic system. All children were obliged to go to school and many did so. Among the first immigrants in Turin, many of the children could read and write and even appeared to have had the opportunity to attend secondary school. Why did this school attendance, or rather learning, not repeat itself in Italy?

“Why”, wondered primary school teachers, “do the Sinti, who are clean, speak the Piedmont dialect, have lived in Turin for centuries, are Italian citizens (immediately seeking reassuring confirmation of what they said because ‘you never know’), and are not nomads (by using this term they mean: ‘they’re not dirty and you’d never be able to tell the Sinti mothers from the “others” that bring their children to school’), and have been sending their children to school much longer than the Roma, why do they do less well at school (regarding results, but above all attendance)?” “Shouldn’t they have understood the cultural importance of school by now, partly so they can be better gipsies one day?”

A bit of history

The first systematic process for educating Roma and Sinti children began in 1965 with an agreement between the Ministry of Education, the teaching institute of the University of Padua and Opera Nomadi to set up special “Lacio Drom” classes. The managing director of primary education, Dr Accardo, manifested unusual sensitivity when he wrote: “We agreed to speak about special schools, not because we consider gypsy children to be sub-normal, but because it’s the solution that allows for greater flexibility in forming classes and with regard to ages, and enables us to cope from kindergarten up to sixteen years of age, with a different timetable and curriculum”.[27] If we want to see how far the good intentions of the promoters of an initiative can be strayed from, we only have to look at the historical directions and turns that were taken. In accounts by Sinti from different towns (Reggio Emilia and Verona, for example) it appears that gypsy children were carefully kept apart from non-gypsy children. In these schools – with dining halls, showers and various amenities used only by gypsies – they had the same right to learn to read and write as any other citizen.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, these special schools were abolished and the pupils were integrated into normal classes and were usually assisted by back-up teachers. A ministerial circular of July 1986, while making a distinction between the situation of Roma and Sinti pupils and of disabled pupils, made use of this custom pointing out that it could be necessary for various reasons, such as poor attendance, scant knowledge of Italian, etc.

Ten years later, several local directors of education stopped “seconding” teachers for “itinerants”. Cultural mediation projects and other public and private initiatives in support of the schooling of Roma and Sinti children were common.

These provisions still seem to focus on how to get such children to adapt to the school, without dealing with the reasons why they are never users with a central role but rather recipients of mandatory assistance.

Gypsy pupils

Integrating a Sinti child into a school is not the same as integrating a child who bears no outward label of diversity. Let me give you an example. In Verona, between 1978 and 1983, some children from a group of Slovene Roma were placed in a normal school while at a neighbouring school there was a Lacio Drom class. The children at the normal school learnt normally, namely in terms of their abilities. These former pupils are now parents of children that go to the same school, which is not a special school, but is now identified due to its location as the “camp” school. These pupils attend irregularly and learn little, even though they are the children of educated adults.

The same learning differences, where children in some cases are considered just as pupils, and in others, as gypsy pupils, are reported in some research papers. Apparently, its not only teachers who categorise them differently, but also the children themselves who wish to project a different image and the families who have different expectations.

The only schooling experience most Roma and Santi children who live in camps have is irregular attendance of primary school. The approach is extremely laborious and the conflict that exists between gipsies and non-gypsies in the adult world is unconsciously reproduced at school.

In many cases, education becomes an attempt to safeguard (to “save”) these children, by offering them an educational model that is in competition with the family one. Roma children like the Gadje custom of being affectionate towards children, so in general they ask for the kind of physical relationship that they do not expect in the home environment[28]. Children’s school attendance is often subject to their ability to manage or not the above-mentioned “emotional” physical relationship with the teachers in an unfamiliar environment.

The educational environment

Carlotta Saletti describes very well the contradictions that exist between the school and home environments. In many cases, what is seen by the Roma family as rendering the schooling environment educational does not always correspond to what the school recognises as an educational opportunity. The environmental confusion is thus only obvious for the parents who, given certain conditions, allow children to participate in something educational in an environment that is not in itself educational: in the presence of older brothers and sisters or other Roma children; in the presence of “old teachers” who “look after” the children; or in the presence of cultural mediators who directly monitor the physical safety of their children. Last, but not least, is the role of responsibility given to a child by adults, and therefore, his or her authoritativeness in deciding whether or not to attend school. Safeguarding the education a child receives at home is undoubtedly important.

For the school these are negative rather than positive values. Schools often avoid placing more than one “gypsy” pupil in the same class or for the same teaching activity; the children are told not to speak their language and they avoid learning foreign languages as they are considered useless; family identity is denied while that which is convenient is accepted; regular attendance is requested; and the children are washed because the must be clean to achieve to goal of educational integration. These customs, which are common in Lacio Drom classes, seem to belong to the past, but they are still used in some municipalities.

Before going to school, “some children do not change or have their clothes changed because, as some parents say: ‘In any case at school they’ll be washed and clothed from head to foot’; some don’t have their clothes changed because it’s considered unnecessary; others have their clothes changed every morning and then get them changed again an hour later at school before entering the classroom; some comb their hair by themselves, others never do and hate having their hair combed at school; some get up and climb on the bus with the only worry that their brothers and sisters get on the bus to…”[29]

The Verona project says: “At home gypsy children are taught to be true and fair gypsies. Teachers are often unaware of the need to propose models to pupils that are not manifestly hostile to those of the family, which is an attitude that would marginalize them in any educational process”. But are any teachers concerned about marginalization? In addition, they often do not convey to the other pupils an image of the Roma child as belonging to another culture, but simply as someone in a difficult situation who should learn to be like them.

Consequently, under the best of circumstances the relationship is experienced with “prudent wariness” on both sides and with a concern to restrict it to a minimum: minimum attendance, especially regarding the length of the curriculum, on the one hand, and minimum interest (not personal but institutional) on the other.[30] Poor school attendance most often regards the youngest child in a family.

As Ana Gomes points out, during the 1980s school became a place for imposition and mobility at the same time. Previously, to obtain a permit to stay at a camp (so prior to the construction of equipped areas for “itinerants” to stay, whereby the permit depended on school attendance) Roma and Sinti families had permission, and the obligation, to send their children to school and education became a necessary condition for obtaining a permit to stay at a camp. A 1984 resolution from the municipality of Turin, which for the first time resolved fundamental issues regarding regularisation of permits to stay at the Arrivore camp, provided for renewal of documents subject to fulfilment of educational obligations.

Cultural mediation

Roma and Sinto children who see a figure at school whom they recognise as belonging to their own environment, will find life at school less strange and will not fail to see the authoritativeness of someone who knows their families and habits.

They will also feel protected against the forms of discrimination that may exist at school and assisted in communicating their experience and people with the means and dignity that can make them comprehensible and acceptable to others.[31]

A directive from the Council of Europe stresses the importance of cultural mediation, in particular regarding gypsy children

It should be pointed out that the Gypsy communities had already taken steps to provide this kind of defence. Children go to school when they are ready to do so and should therefore learn something that will enable them to be at school alone.

Often this responsibility for children falls to elder brothers and sisters or, if there are none, to cousins and aunts and uncles. Parents entrust children with specific tasks so that at school they can be taken care of by a brother or sister. During the first few days, the brother or sister must always be with the child, and if the teacher doesn’t let them stay in the same classroom, they go to the child’s classroom every now and again to check that everything is alright.

Teachers often organise the attendance of a younger child in terms of the attendance of an elder brother or sister, having the two children attend the same class (either of the elder child or the new arrival) and gradually get the younger child to attend his or her own class alone. Municipal authorities are also concerned with enrolling children who belong to the same family in the same school[32], and enrolling children whose families are known to have been quarrelling for years, or in any case have highly conflictual relations, in different schools. In the early 1980s, the same educational directors asked local authorities to put children in different schools “on the basis of ethnic and family groups”[33].

How does a cultural mediator feel at school?

“…my being at school was an opportunity for many parents to have someone familiar with the family environment – even though not part of the family – who looked after the children in a place outside the camp. So, at school, parents entrusted me with their children and kept an eye towards me as a point of reference. However, it doesn’t just work one way. The first time I went to a school attended by children from the extended family from the courtyard where I lived (my neighbours or guest children) I felt a strong sense of responsibility towards them.

 This meant protecting the children at school (or in other Gadje contexts), by not spreading news about everyday life that the parents deliberately didn’t bring to the school, and, at the same time, defending the community. If necessary, I could always relate at school what the parents told me could be said there, in replying to specific request for guardianship. What I would have said would not perhaps have been exactly true for the teachers, but it certainly wouldn’t have been untrue in the eyes of the families.” (Saletti)

In Verona the project consisted of introducing a teacher with a diploma in Roma culture at a school and proposed:

  • more dignified and fair social integration, with an existing services cooperative set up for educational purposes - already operating in the area, in relation with the authorities and not established specifically for “itinerants” - to mediate relations between the school and local authorities;  
  • the work of “mediation”, while starting with the experience of mediating between the majority culture and the Roma culture, should be considered as extendable to other minority cultures in the area;
  • priority should be given to workers belonging to the same cultural and linguistic group as the pupils who possess qualifications required by the Italian school system, or in the case of foreign citizens, have equivalent diplomas;
  • input from independent or cross-party information sources, such as history and culture lessons, film debates, and musical auditions or broadening the debate with parallel information drawn from the milieu of the minority culture.

The fact that the teacher who transmits this information is from the Roma culture, makes it easier for pupils to have a more respectful attitude towards their fellows who belong to this group and encourages a decrease in prejudice.

The benefits are for Roma children, but above all for the school which is thereby enabled to carry out its task of educating all citizens, especially those of compulsory school attendance age.

Roma and Sinti collaboration with institutions

In Turin in1996, Opera Nomadi organised a 200-hour course for cultural mediators. The course was open to all Roma and Sinti camp residents. Fifteen people enrolled. The objective was to set up a communication channel between institutions and the community. The intention was thus to be able to offer these mediators job opportunities at the municipality, and institutions in general, aimed at Roma and Sinti (borstals and prisons, school buses, social services, etc.). The final goal is to introduce new professions that do not replace individuals, but simply facilitate initiatives at the outset and the use of services by those concerned. In subsequent years, various associations and private bodies have held training courses for cultural mediators. However, the job opportunities for those trained for these professions have been less frequent.

The greatest number of opportunities have occurred in the educational field.

We have already mentioned the Roma teacher who worked in Verona for four years. In Mantua too, and probably in other towns too, there are mediators in camps who belong to the same ethnic group, such as in Reggio Emilia, Milan and Lanciano where the presidents of gypsy associations are Roma and Sinti.

Common problems crop up:

  • regarding Gadje society

“Actually, you’ll never be like us”, is what some colleagues said to a Roma primary school teacher in Verona and she thought they might well be right, but at the same time she felt weighed down by having to defend her own environment without knowing to what extent it was acceptable or could be understood, and how much she could bear facing up to the Gadje without making a fool of and being untrue to herself…  

  • regarding one’s family

The institution expects a mediator to be impartial, fair to everyone, but the mediator is the son of X and Y, who in their turn are enemies of A and B… Here’s an example:

“Two cultural mediators who accompany children to the school bus are outside a shack. each of them calling out loudly and going inside, according to the family relations existing at that moment between the adults. These two young people live in the same camp and work for the association or body that won the annual contract for the school bus service. The two mediators are contractually bound to take the children to school, get them onto the bus, take them to the school gate, pick them up in the afternoon and mediate relations between the school and individuals” (Saletti).

This means that the mediator has a great deal of authoritativeness in some cases, and none at all in others, and may be accused by the association of favouring his or her own family (Trevisan), but what for the Gadje is shameful, for the Roma is duty, and the one doing the accusing would do exactly likewise in the same situation.

  • regarding the gypsy environment

A mediator is subject to the social control of the environment and the camp, which may block any activity undertaken by swearing on the dead. The bus service in a town was suspended because the Sinto who was responsible for it was affected by such an oath. In another town, the high turnover of mediators, who remain in service for an average of a year to a year and a half, was due to the same reason.

In fact these people are caught in the crossfire. On the one hand, the wariness of the Gadje who trust mediators “more” but not completely, and on the other, the wariness of the gypsies who always want to check how much of their world has been taken away, to what extent mediators are willing to monitor their own function of representation and delegation, and how willing they are to “launder” their earnings by sharing them out. True Roma don’t wish to give orders beyond their own families, and even give orders while pretending not to[34], so how can you give orders on behalf of the Gadje?

 There isn’t a social relationship between the individual and the group, as in the non-gypsy world, rather the individual is within the family and the social group.

Mediators do not just reply on their own behalf, but represent themselves and their families with the behaviours that are part of each individual member of the family. You might not agree with them, but you must never rebuke them in front of other people, even less in front of Gadje. The borderline is drawn where the preferred goal belongs to one’s own milieu, which is always willing to welcome back its members.

The situation is different for someone who is already in a natural position of mediator as a partner in a mixed marriage. It’s not by chance that people in this situation meet with most success in gypsy associations, especially Roma with Gadje wives.


It would have been a great pleasure to be able to list a series of favourable situations and well-executed projects that could be copied to meet requirements in various countries. In fact, in this contribution we have mainly highlighted the difficulties, and sought to identify the traps not to be fallen into. I believe the most significant conclusions to be drawn are the following:

  • Coming across diversity, we shouldn’t attribute it at all costs to the people we meet. It should not become an enclosure. We should not think that if Roma or Sinti wish to live differently, in a different kind of dwelling, and send their children to a school that has not been earmarked on ethnic grounds, they cannot do so because this does not fit in with the image created by top researchers.
  • On meeting a group of Roma or Sinti, we cannot attribute the same characteristics to all of them. With the word “itinerant”, regional legislation has identified a significant feature of Roma culture. Some deny this, saying that itinerancy is not an attribute, while others maintain that those who settle rather than roam are favoured, and that itinerancy is impeded. Both can be true. The important thing is not to generalise. Such observations may well arise from common characteristics, but this should be highlighted “afterwards”, not a priori, which I believe is unfair.
  • Our social policies are driven by a pyramidal concept of society: each group has a representative, then there is a representative of the representatives, etc., then we move down from the top to the base… This is not the case with Roma. Perhaps it’s impossible to avoid the difficulty of an encounter between two social situations – dialogue between a centralised authority community and a headless community, as Piasere calls it[35]- but efforts can be made to mitigate the diversity by seeking small local solutions and small pyramids, which also from an experimental standpoint , have turned out to be the best solutions. Moreover, the overall view should not become generalisation, but rather the possibility to use some people’s experience to understand others.

Typical housing situations

 These housing situations have been chosen as they are differ with regard to the way they were set up, assistance, guests, consultation of those put up, and their self-determination potential, and also because they are typical of many other existing situations.

Annex no. 1  

The camps in Turin and Strada Arrivore[36]

    Since 1983 the foreigners and itinerants office has regularly conducted surveys and monitoring of authorised and illegal camps. On a special printed form, local police indicate the district, location and type of settlement; then comes nationality, type and licence plate number of vehicles, sites, presumed number of people, any other details of the camp (activities carried out, state of sanitation, law and order and public safety situation), “any complaints from citizens”[37]and amenities (sanitation facilities, educational services, social services). Ezio Marcolungo, in a survey conducted in April and May 1983 reports, in addition to the location of the “settlement” (as he calls it), the “ethnic group” to which the families belong; the number of people, caravans, shacks and tents; the presence or absence of sanitation facilities and water points; and schools attended. The surveys carried out were often drawn up in terms of age ranges, recording, in addition to the number of minors, the number of children of compulsory school attendance age (from six to fourteen years of age).

The definition of the groups registered is sometimes based on ethnic origin, and sometimes linked to work carried out, religion, language or the period of immigration to Italy. The definitions are often unclear and imprecise. 

With a town council resolution of 1984, the local authorities set up itinerant camps in suburban areas, mainly on municipal plots of land: former rubbish tips, plots unsuitable for construction, and planned park areas (and therefore only allocated as camps on a temporary basis). For Roma and Sinti, the places in the town where they are allowed, and not allowed, to stay had different characteristics from those envisaged in the liveability criteria stipulated by the local authorities. Some areas are abandoned after serious incidents occur and, in the camps there are places where it’s better not to build your shack. In many cases, a death is followed by dismantlement and burning piece by piece of the shack in which the dead person lived, and the family involved builds a new dwelling in another part of the camp, or even leaves it and the town for good. 

In subsequent years, in 1984 and 1985, the total number of inhabitants registered in camps within the city limits was less than 900. Consequently, the local authorities began to concentrate the population in purpose-built camps.

Regarding getting papers in order, for the Roma as opposed to the Sinti, the fundamental issues tackled by the foreigners and itinerants office related to procedures for obtaining camp permits, and as a consequence residence permits. The granting of residence permits in the camps increased official monitoring by local authorities of Roma and Sinti within the city limits. Residence status constrains movement within an area, and thereby makes a family’s presence official, and gives access to rights (as well as privileges and obligations): healthcare, education (compulsory school attendance), professional (work activities), etc.

In many cases, people are interested in obtaining residence status to be able to register a vehicle in their own name (which otherwise means paying a Gadje acquaintance to register it in his name), as well as in renewing their residence permits. Many Roma originating from the Balkans entered Italy with a legal entry permit. However, most of them do not have residence permits, given the high degree of discretionary power used by police headquarters in issuing such documents at that time.

In 1988, with the opening of the latest camp, four areas had been set up by the municipality of Turin where Roma and Sinti were authorised to stay: at the Airport, Arrivore, Le Rose and Sangone. Two other camps have existed in the city for years for Sinti, and Sinti funfair workers (working and retired), which are managed by two trade unions rather than the local authorities.

The “itinerants’ camp” in the streets of Arrivore started out as a temporary camp on an area of around 2,500 square metres on part of land allocated as public green space of around 40,000 square metres, but over the years the camp expanded as it gradually spilled beyond its boundaries. During the early years, kanjaria families moved to another camp while xoraxané Roma families became increasingly numerous. Indeed, other families added themselves bit by bit (some related to the former, but not all of them) setting up their own dwellings inside the camp whose boundaries stretched outwards. These families previously lived in other camps (considered as illegal by the local authorities) in the city and its surrounding area or in other towns. Local authority officials engaged in coordinating the camp said that numbers rapidly increased by one or two hundred in the space of a few years. Documents from the archives of the foreigners and itinerants office show that numbers rose steadily during the 1980s and 1990s, but a high degree of mobility regarding the families present can also be observed. Many families left the camp and moved around, and some stayed for several months or a few years. In 1985, most of the families living in the Arrivore camp had arrived in Italy at least ten years earlier. Undoubtedly, the number of residents saw a large increase with the arrival of refugee families as of 1992, who maintained a distinct identity within the camp. Their housing, religion, language and clothing were different, and they had a different attitude towards their children’s education, even though them came from the same countries. Called kaloperi , they are considered to be poor country folk. At the time the research was conducted, according to data from the foreigners and itinerants office of the municipality of Turin, residents numbered around 320, with 73 families. Those “passing through” the camp were Roma from Bosnia, Serbia and Romania, and Gadje.

From a viewpoint, the physical space of the “itinerant camp” defines itself and is defined by family identity. In the “itinerant camp” where the research was conducted, the identities found related to xoraxané Roma, Bosnians, “ergaši, argati, rundaši, kaloperi”, and Muslims, most of them non-practising. From an institutional viewpoint, however, the “itinerant camp” defines a place that describes a political rather than an ethnic or cultural identity: the “itinerant”, the “non-citizen”, is undoubtedly a gypsy. 

 A camp starts out as an imposed social space (illegal staying is prohibited) and gives access to rights (staying in the camp enables residence status, and thereby documents – a residence permit); it becomes a community area (by negotiating an economic relationship with Gadje society); and as an ideal place to stay it becomes a regulator of the internal social flow. Other family and cultural criteria help define the social structure of the camp, both in terms of numbers present (but above all determining who is present by excluding certain families), and in the layout of dwellings. Indeed, family relations define a precise layout for the shacks at the camp (which group together separately the dwellings of different extended family groups) and the impossibility of some people staying in the area due to family tensions. These are the main cases in which episodes of itinerancy occur, in which a family moves from one place to another staying temporarily in other towns or illegal camps, returning every now and again to the original camp. The camp thereby acquires its own internal organisation, which doesn’t correspond to an institutional project and is not subject to external monitoring.

Annex no. 2 

Verona - Strada la Rizza[38]

    Since the 1960s, together with Sinti, Roma from Abruzzo, and some khorakhanè Roma groups, a group of Slovene Roma, who acquired Italian citizenship after the Second World War, has lived in the Verona. After some experiences with municipal camps, in which all the groups lived together, with interruption by a few evacuation orders, spontaneous settlement by Roma and Sinti Italian citizens was tolerated. When Veneto’s regional legislation was issued in 1984, the Slovene Roma asked the municipality to assign each family group a plot of land which would have the same official status as council housing. After lengthy negotiations, the Strada La Rizza area was set up, divided into eight sites, four by four opposite each other, with a dead-end road in the middle (this single exit narrowing road turned out to be a serious error), each of which was assigned to a family. The idea was to set up sites that reflected those of spontaneous settlements.

After a couple of years of “intense assistance” – already begun in the previous unequipped area – with literary classes for adults, after-school activities at the camp, recruitment of a Roma woman to clean the school and economic subsidies, a change of administration led to these families being forgotten. Each one carried on their own lives, were self-determining in every aspect - enrolling children at school, being self-employed, employed or unemployed, planting trees, putting up shacks and prefabs – and protecting their autonomy from the administrators who wanted to turn the area into a gypsy camp, or rather: “the Verona gipsy camp”. These officials thus considered that they had already complied with the dictates of regional legislation and had no further duties to fulfil, such as those towards the Sinti group. People were thus totally forgotten, to a greater extent than by the Gadje in the district. The social worker assigned to the area didn’t set foot in the camp, and no one knew whether there were children who didn’t meet compulsory schooling obligations or elderly people in need of assistance at the camp.

Currently there is a progressive administration that believes in protection rather than self-determination, which has “supported” the equipped sites of the Slovenes (the Roma from other towns, relatives of those living on the sites, who previously were frequently expelled) and Bosnian and Rumanian groups for whom no other place could be found. Assisted groups are alongside independent groups, people who pay for everything they consume - gas, electricity and water – and people who pay nothing, not for reasons of income but because of the group they belong to. It seems like a situation that might provoke the collapse of the experiment, but it’s currently developing…

Annex no. 3


    This camp was set up in December 1992. It has an area of just over 4,000 square metres and 25 sites. The whole area was designed to accommodate caravans, but as there are very many of these, there is very little free space. The caravans are located around the edges and in the centre there is a flowerbed that separates traffic. Near the entrance is a brick building that houses a kindergarten, facilities for after-school activities and the workers’ offices. On the other side are facilities for cooking and sanitation?.

Most of the families are Sinti from Lombardy, Gackane and Estrajxarja who have been in Trento for dozens of years and previously lived in an unequipped camp. It wasn’t possible for residents to choose where and next to whom they were to live, but the Sinti organised their own system for swapping sites amongst themselves. The number of people connected to public and private social welfare operating in this camp is significant. There are two social solidarity cooperatives, four initiatives by the municipality of Trento, the local parish and two school representatives. The camp is run by a cooperative and the workers take turns and guarantee a presence of 11 hours per day. The person that lives at the camp and looks after the main square is also part of the cooperative.

An estrajxari Sinto maintains contact with the authorities and is on the town council that deals with provincial law 15/85 regarding protection of gypsies. Not everyone recognises this representative function but they don’t want to replace him.

The workers perform mainly clerical duties: payment of bills, renewal of permits, school enrolments, etc. They are called upon for any kind of problem or need.

Annex no. 4


In Pisa in the mid-1980s a large camp was spontaneously set up, including Macedonians, Serbs, Bosnians and Croats, in a place called Tortellini. It was in a chronic state of illegality and small groups continually broke off from the main body in search of new places. In 1991 a resolution by the mayor provided for definitive clearance of the camp. Some Roma joined relatives camped at Modena Foggia Firenze, and others scattered in small isolated groups. Attacks in 1995, including a bomb placed in a book of a fairy tales and another bomb in a doll offered by a passer-by at a traffic light, were among the motives that led the Roma to defend themselves by creating a large new temporary camp, first at Tombolo, and later at Coltano. At the same time, surveys were conducted, meetings were held between associations, and there were clashes with Gadje associations including the local land protection association of Coltano and Tombolo, villages where apartments were built.

Currently the authorities in Pisa are seeking various solutions including forced expulsion with an ear to the expectations of those concerned, making a distinction between settled and migrant groups, taking into account family ties and making use of the know-how of public and private social welfare organisations.

In Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia and Serbia these Roma were not nomadic. The Macedonians, for example, come from the densely populated district of Shuto Orizari in Skopje, a settlement with its own political, administrative and associative autonomy, more like districts on the outskirts of large cities in the Muslim world than gypsy camps. The different kind of housing arises from the need to leave a place and is the product of circumstances.

The possible housing solutions, provided for by the municipality of Pisa, in addition to the camp, also include renovation of abandoned cottages and houses to meet the various requirements of those concerned. The common problem is lack of residence permits, which means that the first concern is to offer legal protection.

[1] I have tried to use the word “gypsy” - even though I don’t usually do so and I know that those concerned hate it – so as not to confuse it with the autonym “Roma”, which is the name with which a group defines itself, and because I don’t know whether the participants at this conference are willing to accept European Union usage which extends this name to all gipsy groups. In Italy, the terms “Roma” and “Sinti” cover almost all the country’s gypsy population. On other occasions, I will use the word “Roma” with another meaning. 
[2] Already regarding the first European Community recommendation and the resolution of the local and regional authorities conference in Italy in 1981, Todesco concludes that “to accept and take on responsibility for it, would appear to be the first important step in escaping from age-old procedures, consisting of representative proxies and accusations or modern incorporation solutions” (1986:25).
[3] What Sigona says on p. 108 should also be taken into account: “An extremely interesting and central aspect today is the relationship between a policy focused on the idea of gypsy civilisation and bridging the gap with modern industrial society, which thereby grants a key role to intervention of social services and voluntary and welfare organisations, and the situation of dependency and proxy representation that is extremely widespread among Roma”.
[4] There are communities and individuals: priests, members of religious orders and lay people who report to UNPReS, the National Office for the Pastoral Care of Roma and Sinti, a sector of the Migrantes Foundation, who wish to be the Church’s presence in Italy among Roma and Sinti.
[5] I would like to remind everyone of Leonardo Piasere, lecturer in cultural anthropology at the University of Florence, and his group’s researchers who allowed me access to their Opreroma project. The education of the gipsy childhood in Europe. Department of social studies, University of Florence, 2002.
[6] Questionnaire from the Pontifical Council compiled by various national directors in 2001. 
[7] Scaramuzzetti:  Normale come me [Normal Like Me] in “Autogestione Politica Prima”, an Azione Mag periodical, Verona 2001/4.
[8] Gadje = non-gypsy.
[9] The word is used here as an ‘ethnicon?’ (a group that is characterised in a certain way) and heteronymous (a group that is different from ours).
[10] Leaflets proposing a referendum to expel gipsies from Verona.
[11] See Opre roma 
[12] Ana Gomes, contribution to part I of the “Funfair Project” 1997 Verona, Superintendency of Studies.
[13] Paola Trevisan, project cited, Sinti in Emilia: part II.
[14] Sinti say about an area: it’s a Sinti place, which means a place where Sinti used to move around and were well treated, just as Slovene Roma say maare mistacia, our little spots.
[15]Taking the example of Verona (Italy): To find a half decent solution for a group of Romanian Roma (250, a lot for the town) account was not taken of the policy that was insisted upon until that time: small, homogenous groups, who settle in areas of the town they know well and relate to the authorities in accordance with the principle of self-determination. The Romanian Roma were placed in “Sinti territory”, which was already occupied by a much smaller group of Sinti. They completely committed themselves to being helped by a religious institute in collaboration with the authorities. A small group “of excess number” was tacked on to the housing solutions of a few Slovene Roma families who had been organised in this way for 13 years. The following reasons were given: 1) it was an emergency situation; and 2) Roma people should welcome each other.
[16] See Scaramuzzetti in Germania 1992, rimpatriatigli zingari rumeni [Germany 1992, Repatriated Romanian Gypsies], 1993 Rome, “Migrants Service”, p. 115.  The attacks on the asylum seekers’ hostel, inhabited mainly by gypsies, in Rostock was the first of a series of acts of racism that spread to other regions; the bomb in Oberwart in 1995 which killed four Roma; and the bomb placed in a doll and given to little Roma girl in Pisa (Italy) in the same year. 
[17] Sigona’s book is inspired by this news story.
[18] See Roma special issue, Migrantes Foundation, November1989, pp. 39-42.
[19] In some cases, such as Turin, camp regulations preceded regional legislation.
[20] This occurred, without actually being implemented, in 1997 in Rome and Palermo. A guardian does however exist who prohibits entry to unauthorised persons, whether Roma or Gadje (e.g. Cagliari).
[21] Scaramuzzetti in Servizio Migranti, a Migrantes Foundation magazine, Rome 2002.
[22] Roma, page cited

[23] Carlotta Saletti, Bambini del “campo nomadi” [“Gypsy Camp” Children”], Rome, CISU, being printed.

[24] Abitazione [Housing]in "Rom e sinti un'integrazione possibile" [“Roma and Sinti Integration is Possible”], 2nd report on the integration of immigrants in Italy – Immigrants Integration Commission.

[25] This led to the conviction among a group of very politically active citizens that such people received a daily allowance from the state (equivalent to the amount allocated by the authorities responsible for them). The news was widely disseminated and pre-printed cards were distributed that only needed to be signed and sent to the president of Italy, stating: “I would also like to become a Roma gypsy so I can receive an allowance of 35,000 lire per day.”
[26] Brunello compares this situation with the institution of ghettoes in Italian cities in the 15 th century. 1996:17.
[27] Quoted in Paola Trevisan’s report, Opreroma Project, p. 56.
[28] Saletti, Trevisan, works cited.
[29] Saletti, op. cit.
[30] Cultural mediation project organised by Piasere and Scaramuzzetti for Lenotti primary school in Verona. Teacher: Pamela Hudorovich.
[31] Piasere, Scaramuzzetti, project cited.
[32] Where children from a camp do not attend a single school, which happens in smaller towns.
[33] From the minutes of a “gypsy” working group seminar dated 2/3/84. Turin.
[34] Piasere “ Povertà e ricchezza” [‘Poverty and Wealth”] in UNPReS Conference Records, Bologna 1990.
[35] Piasere “ Dialogo fra comunità a potere centralizzato e comunità di tipo acefalo” [“Dialogue between Centralised Authority Communities and Headless Communities”]  in UNPReS Conference Records, Giulianova 1994.
[36] This contribution is taken from the cited work by Carlotta Saletti. 
[37] Survey dated 3 May 1983 conducted in the 16 th district by the local police force.
[38] Contribution from the speaker. 
[39] Information from: Piergiorgio Tomasi “La vita in un campo nomadi regolamentato: il caso di Trento”[“Life in a Regulated Gypsy Camp: the Case of Trento”] in Italia Romanì [Roma Italy], volume 2, edited by L. Piasere, CISU 1999 Rome.
[40] Information taken from: Michele Barontini “I campi nomadi a Pisa” [“Gypsy Camps in Pisa”] in L’urbanistica del disprezzo [Contemptuous Town Planning] edited by Piero Brunello, Manifestolibri 1996 Rome and “Le città sottili” [“Slender Cities”], a city of Pisa project, November 2002.