Size, composition and historical presence of the Roma, Sinti and Camminanti communities
The Roma, Sinti and Camminanti (or Caminanti in Sicilian) - hereafter RSC - living in Italy are characterized by their heterogeneity in terms of groups, dialects and specific linguistic varieties, and cultures. When considering RSC communities, we are referring to a) Italian citizens; b) citizens from other EU countries; c) Non-EU citizens; d) foreigners who were granted asylum or subsidiary protection; e) (de facto) stateless people, born in Italy from stateless parents.
It is estimated that nation-wide there are 100,000 to 200,000 Roma, Sinti and Camminanti present in Italy: half of whom (about 70,000) are Italian citizens; and the other 50%, although made up of foreigners, is mostly in Italy, on a permanent basis. This coincides with the estimated figure of 140,000 used by the Council of Europe.
The visibility of Roma settlements in the suburbs of large urban areas of North-Central and North of Italy leads to neglect sometimes the important presence of these communities in other areas of the country. In Scampia (Naples), there are over 1,500 Roma people from the former Yugoslavia whose presence dates back to the late eighties (the second generation of Roma people from the former Yugoslavia, though being born in Scampia, is made up of Italians). In Puglia, on the border between Molise and Abruzzo, the Roma community is largely located there on a permanent basis.
The North of Italy is characterized by a predominance of Sinti (estimated to be around 32,000). They had been traditionally involved in nomadic labour activities that required them to travel around the country (fairs or circus). Anyway, it is considered that just 3% of them are actually nomadic, because the majority of them have a permanent place where they come back when they do not work.
In Noto, Sicily, the Camminanti community has been living there since the late fifties (some of them are still "semi-nomadic"). The majority of Sicilian Camminanti of Noto travel through all Italy for around a semester, offering small manual services and coming back in the Province of Noto for the remaining part of the year.
Regarding the recently migrant Roma, mainly, the precarious conditions of settlements and evictions carried out by local authorities create a forced nomadic habit linked to their vulnerable condition of marginality.
Source: CAHROM thematic report on child/early and forced marriages within Roma communities (adopted in April 2016)
The issue of statelesness
“About 140,000 Roma, Sinti and Caminanti (RSC) people (around 0.23% of the total population) live in Italy, of whom most are children and youngsters. They can be divided into three main groups in relation to the citizenship and period of immigration:
- The first group consists of approximately 70,000 people (Italian citizens) whose first records date back to the fourteenth century and are dispersed throughout the Country;
- The second group consists of about 90,000 Roma people from the Balkan region (Non-EU citizens), who arrived in Italy in the 90’s, especially after the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. This group is mainly settled in Northern Italy;
- The third - and more recent - Roma migrant with Romanian and Bulgarian nationality (EU citizens), who mainly live in large cities (Milan, Turin, Rome, Naples, Bologna, Bari, Genoa). In addition to these groups, mention has to be made of those irregular Roma people, whose exact number has not been set yet, officially.
By recalling the international and domestic normative framework, mention has to be made of the differing legal statuses, which characterize Roma, Sinti and Caminanti people living in Italy:
- RSC being flown from Non-EU countries as victims of conflict and persecution, who have access to: the status of refugee procedure; or to subsidiary protection measures; or to stay permit for a humanitarian purpose (Legislative Decree No. 251/1997), in accordance with EU Directive on minimum standards for the recognition of the status of refugee (EU Directive 2004/83/CE) and the 1951 Geneva Convention on the status of refugees (as ratified by Italia, by Act No. 722/54). In this regard, it should be stressed the immediate applicability of the above Directive, which cannot be limited under any circumstances, even in the event of police records. If international protection measures, laid down by relevant Directives, cannot be granted to those Roma people from countries where they might be exposed to discrimination, or inhuman treatment, Art.5, para.6, of the Unified Text on Immigration envisages the release of stay permit for a humanitarian purpose;
- RSC, being citizens of other EU Member-States, who must comply with the EU obligations concerning, in particular, the right to freedom of movement, stay and stabilization. Legislative Decree No. 30/2007, implementing UE Directive 2004/38/81, will be applicable to them, in the event they search for a job and housing. In this regard Legislative Decree No.32/2008 has amended the above Decree, with the aim of reducing the public order and security–related circumstances under which to apply an expulsion measure: this can take place “only when the conduct results in a concrete, effective and serious threat to the fundamental rights of a person or to public security, so as to make the expulsion urgent, since the further stay of the person concerned in the Country has become incompatible with the civil cohabitation”;
- RSC, who are de facto stateless persons, since the legislation in force makes the recognition of the statelessness difficult;
- RSC, being Non-EU citizens, who generally fall within the categories considered by the legislation on immigration (Unified Text on Immigration, Legislative Decree No. 286/98, as amended and recently supplemented by the so-called security package provisions);
- RSC with Italian citizenship, about whom there is an ongoing debate to decide whether they fall within the so-called trans-national minority and thus, with the right to reside in any country, or to be considered as citizens of a given State and thus when emigrating, they should fall within the provisions concerning the stay of foreigners.
There is one more juridical situation to be considered. The situation of those children of foreign parents who are born in Italy. The legislation on citizenship applies but only under specific and strict law requirements (Act No.91/92)”.
With specific regard to children who were born in Italy, of relevance are the new provisions introduced under the so-called Kyenge Decree (Article 33 of Law Decree No. 69/2013).
Estimates indicate that the number of Roma people, de facto/de jure stateless, ranges between 3,000 and 15,000 people in Italy.
The main concern refers to the inevitable limitations and the discrimination, eventually multiple and intersecting, that this situation causes, also in terms of access to basic services.
Plus, Roma families are usually characterized by differing legal statuses among the members of the same family, which per se brings discrimination.
Italian Legislative Framework
Article 16 of the Constitution enshrines the right to freedom of movement. This right, together with the right to reside within State’s borders, the right to leave any country, including one’s own, and the right to return to one’s country and the right to nationality, is considered by the legislation on citizenship (Act 91/1992, Presidential Decrees 572/1993 and 362/1994). Citizenship legislation applies to: Italians who have lost their citizenship and wish to reinstate it; descendants of Italian citizens claiming citizenship; and foreigners applying for Italian citizenship. Law-Decree 69/2013, converted into Act 98/2013, aims at simplifying citizenship acquisition for those who have come of age and cannot prove their constant stay in the Italian territory for the past 18 years, due to administrative failures not directly caused by them but by their parents’ negligence and/or birth register personnel. Its Art.33 envisages the mandatory use of IT programs by relevant state officers to make this proceeding faster and less expensive.
More recently by Act No. 162/2015, entered into force on October 13, 2015, Italy has adhered to the UN Convention on reduction of statelessness (1961). This Convention envisages inter alia that each member state must grant citizenship to all those born in its country, who otherwise would be stateless (Italy had previously ratified UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954), by Act No.306/1962).
Citizenship and statelessness
Ius sanguinis is the basic principle for the acquisition of the Italian citizenship, while the so- called ius soli applies, on a residual basis, to specific exceptional cases. Act No. 91/92 sets forth that it is citizen, by birth, the child whose father or mother is Italian. This Act also envisages that it is citizen by birth, whoever is born within the territory of the Italian Republic, whenever both the parents are either unknown or stateless or if s/he does not apply for the citizenship of his/her parents, in accordance with the relevant legislation of their Country of origin.
Within this framework, the Italian legal system aims at reducing the cases of statelessness. According to conventional International Law (The 1954 New York Convention), it is a stateless person whomever no State considers as its own citizen, in line with the relevant legislation. However the above Convention sets forth that stateless persons enjoy the same civil rights of citizens. State-parties commit to facilitating the assimilation and naturalization of stateless persons, while reducing the cases of statelessness, as much as possible. Considering the differing legislations from Country to Country, it might happen that the person concerned: does not acquire any citizenship, at birth, (the so-called original statelessness); or may lose it afterwards, due to his/her own choice or by means of a measure by his/her Country of origin (the so-called subsequent statelessness); or be without any citizenship due to omissions, for instance if failing to submit documentary evidence jointly with the relevant application, provided that most legal systems envisage the acquisition of the citizenship, in accordance with the principle of ius sanguinis (the so-called “de facto” statelessness).
In order to ascertain the status of statelessness, it is necessary to verify, in the first place, the lack of citizenship by the Country of origin or by the countries with which the person concerned has set meaningful relations. The Italian system pays specific attention to statelessness. By Act No. 306/1962, Italy ratified the above-mentioned 1954 New York Convention.
In Italy, the status of statelessness: 1. can be certified by the Administration, in accordance with Art.17 of D.P.R. 12 October 1993, No. 572, entitled “Executive Regulation of Act No. 91/92 on new provisions on citizenship”; 2. or following the ascertainment by the ordinary justice. The Ministry of Interior has the competence to certify the status of statelessness; and this responsibility, according to the Italian case-law, is confined to the evaluation of the documentation submitted jointly with the relevant application by the person concerned. Once confirmed the documentary evidence annexed to the application, the above Administration recognizes, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the status of statelessness. As reported, such ascertainment can be decided by the ordinary justice whenever (Court of Cassation: see judgement No. 28873/2008): “the documentary evidence is missing, since the justice can resort to whatsoever investigative mean to ascertain the situation of the person concerned”. This additional judicial path has been also confirmed by the Constitutional Court. Act No. 91/92 envisages “a preferential pathway” for those persons being recognized stateless, who intend to acquire the Italian status civitatis. Art. 9, para. 1, lett. e) of Act No. 91/92 reduces to five years the term of legal residence in Italy, being necessary for the submission of the Italian citizenship application. In both cases, such procedures may be applied to Roma people from the Former Yugoslavia, entered Italy no later than January 1, 1996 (the date of the signature of relevant peace agreements).
As for the issue of statelessness, Italy has signed - though not ratified yet - the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. However it should be stressed that the implementation of this Convention is already compatible with the current Italian legal system (…). For instance Act No. 91/1992, though based on a voluntary principle, indicates specific automatic procedures for the protection of the rights of the child. Art. 14 sets forth the acquisition of citizenship for those children under the age of 18 living with who acquires or re-acquires the Italian status civitatis, so as to consider both the voluntary principle and the child’s will to renounce to the Italian citizenship, when s/he comes to the age, provided that s/he holds another citizenship.
Unlike the stricter provisions of the above Convention, the Italian legal system envisages such a status regardless of the time under which it occurred, and given a specific time lapse starting from the formal recognition. The above Act No. 91/1992 is a protection-inspired legislation if considering its provisions concerning the maintenance of the status civitatis. Again the Italian legal system does not envisage any automatic circumstance under which the person concerned may lose his/her status civitatis, whereas art. 7, para.4, of the above Convention lays down the automatic loss of the citizenship whenever the person concerned legally resides abroad for no less than 7 years.
Law-Decree No. 13/2017, converted into law by Act No. 46/2017, to speed up proceedings in the field of international protection, aims at; inter alia setting closer links between refugee status related Commissions and judicial Authorities, by establishing in each District tribunal, highly specialized judicial sections devoted expressly to Asylum, Immigration, and Statelessness.
UNHCR has been always playing a very proactive/leading role in terms of awareness-raising, advisory, and orientation on statelessness for both institutional and non-institutional stakeholders: Inter alia, it has translated relevant documentation in Italian; provides advice; and organizes conferences, seminars and training sessions. More recently, it has set up a National WG on Statelessness in Italy with relevant NGOs, independent experts, and other Institutions, including ASGI, CIR, JUSTROM, Associazione 21 luglio, and so forth.
Statelessness is covered by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice, as well as by other Institutions, such as legislative parliamentary commissions, ISTAT, ANCI, and UNAR.
From a procedural standpoint: Statelessness can be granted either by administrative or judicial pathway. Should the administrative pathway fail, there is always room to apply for it via judicial proceeding. Though the latter is much more expensive.
 This is a datum, which indicates a presence ranging between 110,000 and 180,000 units.
 In particular, Act No. 94/2009 lays down, inter alia, the requirements to be registered in the lists of residents, the latter being a conditio sine qua non for the access, for instance, to public housing.
 Bonetti, pp. 17-124.
 National Roma Strategy of Italy, 2012 – 2020 (www.unar.it).
: Borghesiana; Salviati 1-2; River; Candoni; Gordiani; Monachina; Castelromano; Arco di Travertino, Monte Mario (Rome); Scampia, Giugliano, Gianturco (Naples)