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Anti-racism Commission calls on Italy to strengthen fight against hate speech and racial discrimination

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published its fifth report on Italy

CoE

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) last week published its fifth report on Italy in which it analyses recent developments and outstanding issues and makes recommendations to the authorities.

Progress in the fight for rights of same-sex couples and refugees, and against racism and racial discrimination

“I would like to commend the Italian authorities on the adoption of legislation allowing same sex unions to be officially recognised. It is important to grant the same rights to all”, said Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland.

ECRI welcomes a number of legislative initiatives against racism and racial discrimination; similarly a draft law in the field of nationality, if adopted, will facilitate access to Italian citizenship for many of the foreign minors in Italy.

The report however finds gaps in the anti-discrimination law which does not criminalise discrimination on grounds of colour or language and not always provide effective, proportionate and dissuasive punishment. Moreover, the Ufficio Nazionale Antidiscriminazioni Razziali (UNAR) is not an independent institution and its mandate is limited, despite its numerous activities in the anti-discrimination field.

Despite legislative progress for the protection of the rights of LGBT persons, ECRI notes that the question of sex education in school, particularly on subjects like gender identity and sexual orientation, remains controversial and meets with strong opposition from certain regional authorities.

ECRI commends also the considerable efforts made by Italy to rescue at sea and provide decent accommodation to the great number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving from North Africa.

Rise in number of hate speech incidents

The report also notes that an increasing number of incidents of hate speech have given rise to legal proceedings; that the new Action Plan against racism proposes measures to combat hate speech and racist, homophobic and transphobic violence in line with ECRI recommendations; and that the Observatory for protection against discriminatory acts (OSCAD) facilitates the reporting of hate crimes and communication between police and victims.

Continued forced evictions of Roma

The report points out the problematic situation of continued forced evictions: “During its visit to Italy ECRI was informed that Roma continued to be evicted from their unauthorised settlements…. They are often decided on sanitary grounds, because of the insalubrious conditions in the settlements. However, they are often carried out with disregard for the usual procedural guarantees, with no prior notification in writing, for example, and especially with no alternative housing solution being proposed. The lack of an alternative housing plan obliges the municipal authorities at best to offer the evicted families temporary solutions. Unfortunately, all too often the evicted Roma simply move to another unauthorised settlement.”

 “ECRI accordingly notes that these forced evictions do nothing to improve housing or sanitary conditions but, on the contrary, have the unwanted effect of simply reproducing elsewhere the same precarious and insalubrious situation that led to the evictions in the first place.”

“I am concerned about the continuation of forced evictions of Roma from their unauthorised settlements” said Christian Ahlund, ECRI’s Chair “I call upon the national and local authorities to carry out such eviction respecting procedural guarantees and only in the presence of re-housing solutions.”

Recommendations and follow-up

The report makes a number of recommendations. The following two are to be implemented on a priority basis and will be the subject of interim follow-up by ECRI within two years:

- secure independence of UNAR both in law and in fact, and extend its powers to cover discrimination on grounds of colour, language, religion, nationality and national origin;
- take measures in schools to promote mutual tolerance and respect, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The report, including Government observation was prepared following ECRI’s visit to Italy in September 2015 and takes account of developments up to 15 December 2015, except where expressly indicated.

ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance and discrimination on grounds such as “race”, national/ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion and language (racial discrimination); it prepares reports and issues recommendations to member States.