Keywords: Roma, immigration, informal economy, social change
The article shows that a group of Kosovian Roma living in Mazara del Vallo (Sicily) since the 1970s has survived economically by means of informal, precarious and sometimes illegal practices such as making handicrafts, begging and small-scale drug dealing. This suggests that an informal economy may determine social advancement for migrants and constitute a first step for their inclusion in Italian society. In the light of the experience of this Roma community, the criminalization of underground and borderline economic activities promoted by current immigration laws and policies in the name of «zero-tolerance» discourse appears self-defeating. The paper argues against this repressive approach, which creates social tension and exclusion and advocates a return to welfare state policies.