Romani Studies

The spectre that haunts Italy: The systematic criminalisation of the Roma and the fears of the Heartland

Romani Studies (2010), 20, (2), 105–136.

Abstract

Within a few months of the Berlusconi government taking office in 2008, the populist coalition reignited the ongoing debate of immigration, social integration, security and crime by launching the government's proposed reform of the 'security packet' to curb violent immigrant crime. This article examines the implications of the reform on the Roma communities living in Rome and the debate that it has provoked in the context of the broader political discussion, which has developed in Italy since the 1990s, regarding immigration control and the securitisation of immigration. Utilising the theories of Human Security and Stress, the article sheds light on the way in which right-wing populism has come to strike a chord with the Italian people and echo the fears of the other to galvanise support for its anti-immigrant and anti-Roma reforms. The article identifies how political discourse and government policy have not only sought to represent the electorate's needs, but have also helped to (re)construct them, fuelling social hostility and further segregating the Roma community from Italian society.

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Costi, Natassa