Greek Roma settlements: police raids, inhuman conditions
02 April 1998
On November 1, 1997, the Greek daily Exoussia reported a raid by police on the Roma settlement in Zephyri, a suburb of Athens. The officers were apparently looking for large quantities of hashish, which they subsequently failed to find. According to the report, the police opened fire during the raid. The authorities allegedly claimed that the raid was justified since drug users had identified the camp as a place from which they were supplied. On November 30, the Greek Helsinki Monitor wrote a letter to Prime Minister Simitis, condemning such practices by police, claiming that they merely serve to enforce racist attitudes.
On October 2, 1997, Exoussia reported that Amnesty International representative Mr Drandakis had criticised the authorities for allowing conditions in the Romani settlement at Nea Alikarnassos to deteriorate badly and he denounced the state as racist. His comments were prompted by the arrest of a Romani woman, which left her four young children alone while the youngest child needed urgent medical attention. According to Exoussia, the infant received this only after the intervention of Mr Drandakis and the woman’s lawyer. The article also reported a claim by a representative of a local Romani organisation that half of the children in the settlement at Nea Alikarnassos suffer from hepatitis. The state authorities allegedly refuse to vaccinate the children on grounds of cost.
The Greek press was especially preoccupied with sanitary conditions in Roma settlements during the period. The Greek daily Adesmeftos Typos reported on December 11, 1997, that the non-governmental organisation Médecins du Monde has expressed deep concern over the high mortality rate among Roma, particularly among Romani children. The report states that sixty out of every thousand Romani children in Greece die before their first birthday. Among those between two and five years of age, twenty out of every thousand children presently die. The report goes on to claim that between 30°.6 and 35°~ of the Romani children there die of illnesses directly related to the unsanitary conditions in which they are forced to live, with a further 10°~ suffering accidental deaths. Similarly, on September 9, 1997, Adesmeftos Typos reported that twenty-eight Romani children living in the settlement of Kato Ahaia have been bitten by rats and that none of the children has been vaccinated. Municipal authorities are also allegedly negligent in the collection of refuse and, according to the newspaper, have refused to issue a permit for the construction of a sewer system.
(Adesmeftos Typos, ERRC, Exoussia, Greek Helsinki Monitor)