Abuse of Roma by police and municipal authorities in Greece

03 April 1999

Observers of the ERRC and the Greek Helsinki Monitor reported that on February 16, employees of the municipal authorities and police officers destroyed and burned five Romani barracks in the Nea Zoi settlement at Aspropyrgos, a town approximately thirty kilometres from Athens. The settlement comprised twelve barracks altogether, with around one hundred inhabitants.

Six employees of the local municipality with a water tanker, two bulldozers, a jeep, and three police cars with ten to twelve police officers arrived at the Aspropyrgos settlement during the daytime on February 16. The Roma were not given enough time to remove their possessions. Some of the Romani residents were not present at the time of the operation. The employees of the municipality destroyed five barracks with the two bulldozers and set the rubble on fire. The operation was allegedly led by Mr Constantinos Tsiggos, Deputy Mayor of Aspropyrgos, and a senior officer of the local police department (see "Advocacy", p. 54 in this issue).

Municipal authorities have also recently threatened Roma from the Messinai Region in southern Greece with eviction. However, the Epohi newspaper reported on December 20, 1998, that the Kalamata Committee for Human Rights and against Racism had succeeded in convincing the local authorities not to evict the Roma who had settled in the industrial region of Sperxogeia in the municipality of Messini. The municipalities of Kalamata, Messini and Melegalas agreed to create four settlements for the approximately 2000 Roma in the region. Twenty-five Romani children from the settlement are already registered at school. On the other hand, the strong objections of the non-Romani local population have, according to officials, prevented the authorities from installing running water.

The Greek Helsinki Monitor has also alleged abuse by municipal authorities of the Roma living by the Gallikos river, Thessaloniki, northern Greece. The river has overflowed its banks five times between November 1998 and January 1999 and it is very likely that it will overflow again at the first rainstorm. These floods destroyed some barracks and other belongings of Roma. The living conditions are extremely poor in the area. The water supply is not sufficient for the nearly 1500 Roma living there. There are fourteen containers on the site which, if filled on a daily basis, would provide enough water for all the people living there. However, only two or three of them are filled with water two or three times a week. There is no rubbish collection or sanitary drainage. In a press statement, the Greek non-governmental organisations DROM Network for Social Rights of Roma, Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights Group - Greece claim that the Prefecture of Thessaloniki did not fulfill obligations when it refused to move the Roma away from the river. The organisations ask for the immediate temporary resettlement of the Roma at a place adjacent to the former military barracks of Gonou, six kilometres from the current settlement. The barracks are being prepared for the permanent settlement of the Roma, but the infrastructure is not yet in place. The Prefect has not accepted the solution of temporary resettlement and announced that renovation work on the barracks would be completed by May 15, 1999.

(ERRC, Greek Helsinki Monitor)

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