The War against the Poor



I’ve decided to dedicate a few Sundays to the priests, the real ones.

Today let’s listen to the words of Father Alex Zanotelli

"On 4 November I witnessed the demolition of 3 Roma encampments at Casoria, in the  Province of Naples. There were about 400 people in these encampments.

At 8:00 am in the morning the following arrived with a Police escort: excavators, diggers, bulldozers to demolish everything.

It seemed like an army in war mode that flattened everything. The only surprise: the camp had been abandoned by the Roma during the night. In fact the previous evening, a considerable contingent of Police had warned everyone to get away. And they went away, escaping in all directions: some to the railway station (Piazza Garibaldi), some to the social centres to spend the night.

Never has such an action been seen in Naples: throw people out by force from their own homes without first offering them an alternative place to stay. It reminded me of scenes from military regimes. Above all it reminded me of demolition activity that I had witnessed in the shantytowns of Nairobi. Never would I have expected to have witnessed similar scenes in my native Italy.

For the previous few months I had been closely following the experiences of these Roma, together with professor Marco Nieli: a people who are kind, simple, active people who have never taken part in a war, a people who escaped from Romania to find a bit of dignity. Marco and I have been guests of the Roma at Casoria: receiving a warm and open hospitality.

With them I was able to see the reality of the encampment. I must admit that I had never seen in Italy a situation that was so degraded. It reminded me of certain corners of Korogocho, the shantytown in Nairobi, where I lived for 12 years. This matched because of the position and because of the condition of the encampment. In fact, the Roma encampment of Casoria is under an enormous arc with enormous support structures of the ring road round Naples. But the conditions in relation to hygiene and the environment of the camp are not less terrifying. Huts clustered one above the other in really tiny spaces. Without drinking water. Squashed in between 2 railway lines (a lad was killed a few months ago under a train). Enormous rats that strolled around in peace.

The people welcomed us with great warmth and many cups of coffee. They invited everyone to come on 11 April in front of the Municipal hall in Casoria to talk with the representatives of the town. That day, a good part of the community came out to shout, scream, beat the drums, to call for drinking water in the camp, a bus to take the children to school and finally an alternative place to construct their camp.

It is incredible that the Region of Campania still has no framework law for the Roma. They were simply promises. After much insistence, what arrives are the police and the bulldozers, and away you go! Away go all those who mucky up our cities. The most incredible thing is that the town of Casoria has been the location of the commissary's office for mafia infiltration! As a final gesture, the outgoing mayor had signed the order to remove the camp.

It’s serious, really serious that an order from an “out of date” Mayor is put into action immediately. The Prefect made it effective immediately! It’s really true that it’s always the poor who pay. But I saw a group of refugees outside the Gianturco Station: pregnant women, children who cried. Now they live in the Diaspora of the almost total indifference of both institutions and citizens. Is this the democratic Italy? Is it like this that we treat the Roma? Is it not like this that we treat the immigrants enclosing them in the CPT {Centri di permanenza temporanea per stranieri – centres of temporary stay for foreigners}, like real concentration camps? The poor in the Northern hemisphere, as in the Southern hemisphere, in Naples as in Nairobi, don’t count! And yet they are faces!

Alex Zanotelli

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 10:43 PM in | Comments (4)
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The Gilead Access Program is designed to expand and sustain access to once-daily anti-HIV medications like Truvada by the poorest countries. WBR LeoP

Posted by: Leo | January 18, 2007 03:12 AM


I'm glad you have written. I think you've made a good point.

I felt really chilled when I read the mass of replies in the Italian section. I was anguished.


Posted by: Elizabeth Birks | November 16, 2005 10:11 PM

Today's world has reinvented its concept of poor. There is the cosy poor... the one we are comfortable to see because it is far away from us. (India, Thailand, Africa). And then there is the uncomfortable poor. The one on our doorstep. They are no longer seen as poor but as parasites, vermin. My home country (Malta) is unfortunately becoming an ugly example of this divide. We have magic collections for children faraway (see Hurricane Victims) but we have begun to see the immigrant boat people as a threat to our livelihood. A recent concert to raise money for north african children was boycotted (and posters vandalised) because of the aim... Where are our values?

Posted by: Jacques Zammit | November 15, 2005 05:58 PM

it is a difficult issue!
Italy hasn't yet found a solution for its people and allows immigrants into the country.
If you take a responsibility of hosting immigrants, then you have to provide them with services and jobs.
In my opinion,
The Italian Goverment is responsible for those Roms and encampments.



Posted by: Ivan Bettelli | November 15, 2005 04:35 PM

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