United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Reviews Greece

Following a review of Greece during its 32nd Session, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued, on May 14, 2004, its Concluding Observations regarding Greece's compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee noted "the persistent discrimination against Roma people in the fields of housing, health and education." It also expressed concern at the "reported instances of police violence against Roma, sweeping arrests, and arbitrary raids of Roma settlements by the police." The Greek state was urged "to investigate reported instances of police violence against Roma and alleged arbitrary raids of Roma settlements, and to bring perpetrators to justice" and "to continue its efforts to train police officers on international human rights standards and to raise awareness of the dimensions of discrimination against Roma among local authorities."

The Committee extensively commented on the housing rights situation of Roma in Greece and particularly in the context of the 2004 Olympic games, noting that it was "gravely concerned about numerous reports on the extrajudicial demolition of dwellings and forced evictions of Roma from their settlements by municipal authorities, often under the pretext of construction projects for the 2004 Olympic Games, and frequently without payment of adequate compensation or provision of alternative housing." In this respect, the Committee requested the State party to "provide in its second periodic report, detailed information on the number of Roma evicted from their homes, especially in the context of the 2004 Olympic Games, and on any measures taken to remedy illegal acts which may have occurred in that regard." Further, the Committee urged Greek authorities "to take measures towards providing for all Roma, including itinerant and non-Greek Roma, adequate and affordable housing with legal secu-rity of tenure, access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, electricity and other essential serv-ices, and meeting their specific cultural needs."

Regarding the right to healthcare, the Committee regretted the fact that it did not receive "adequate information from the State party on the frequency of deployment of, or the number of persons serviced by, the mobile health units servicing itinerant Roma or the mobile mental health units providing basic psychological services to persons living in remote areas." The Committee requested the State party to provide in its next report adequate information on the matter.

Regarding the right to education, the Committee stressed that it was "concerned that a high percentage of Roma and Turkish-speaking children are not enrolled in school, or drop out at a very early stage of their schooling." Further the Committee noted that, "[…] members of other [than Turkish] linguistic groups have no possibility to learn their mother tongue at school." The Committee urged the Greek state "to take effective measures to increase school attendance by Roma and Turkish speaking children, including at the secondary level, to ensure, to the extent possible, that children belonging to minority linguistic groups have an opportunity to learn their mother tongue, including regional dialects, at school, and to ensure an adequate staffing with teachers specialized in multicultural education."

The Committee urged the Greek state "to reconsider its position with regard to the recognition of other ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities which may exist within its territory, in accordance with recognized international standards, and invites it to ratify the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (1995)."

Finally, the Committee noted with concern that "economic, social and cultural rights which are normally also guaranteed to non-citizens, such as the right to non-discrimination or the right to free education, are reserved to Greek citizens under the State party's Constitution."

In the run-up to the Committee's review of Greece, on April 14, 2004, the ERRC submitted a comprehensive report on the human rights situation of Roma in Greece, published by the ERRC and the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) in April 2003, highlighting the major obstacles and discrimination facing Roma in Greece in their access to fundamental socio-economic rights. The full text of the ERRC/GHM report is available HERE. The GHM additionally submitted a letter of concern regarding particularly pre-carious human rights situation of disabled Roma. Further information on this is available at: http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr. The full text of the Committee's Concluding Observations is available at: http://www.ohchr.org

(ERRC, GHM)

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