The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has published its fifth report on Italy in which it analyses recent developments and outstanding issues and makes recommendations to the authorities.
“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 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.
ECRI commends also the considerable efforts made by Italy to rescue at sea and provide decent accommodation to the masses of migrants and asylum seekers arriving from North Africa.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
7. (§ 29) ECRI reiterates its recommendation to the Italian authorities to ensure that UNAR’s full independence is secured both in law and in fact; to extend its powers so that the relevant legislation clearly covers discrimination based not only on ethnic origin and race but also on colour, language, religion, nationality and national origin; and to grant it the right to take legal action. It is also important that any plan to merge UNAR into an independent authority with a broader remit should guarantee the full implementation of the above recommendations and provide it with all the necessary human and financial resources it needs to fulfil its mission.
16. (§ 86) ECRI recommends completing the collection of statistical data in all areas relating to Roma integration in order to be able to establish an order of priority for the implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategy; setting quantifiable objectives in every field of intervention of the Strategy; completing the setting up of regional working groups; allocating special funding to the Strategy; and providing UNAR with the resources it needs to be able to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the Strategy.
19. (§ 108) ECRI recommends that the Italian authorities broaden UNAR’s powers so that the relevant legal provisions clearly cover discrimination based, inter alia, on sexual orientation and gender identity.