March 3, 2009
Italy’s Red Cross has launched its biggest vaccination programme since the second world war, with the goal of immunising several thousand gypsy children living in camps around Rome.
[efoods]The operation began at Casilino 900, a camp on the eastern outskirts of the capital that is believed to be one of the largest gypsy settlements in Europe. Some two dozen doctors were among 200 Red Cross volunteers that included clowns to provide entertainment in one of the big tents erected for the exercise.
The Red Cross action comes at a critical moment for Rome, with its human rights record under the international spotlight. Gianni Alemanno, the capital’s right-wing mayor, is under scrutiny for his plans to remove almost all the 50 or so legal and illegal gypsy camps around Rome and replace them with a small number of “maxi-camps” . Non-Italian gypsies without proper documentation, mostly from Romania and the Balkans, will be obliged to leave and could face expulsion from Italy.