ERRC Letter to the Prime Minister of Greece Simitis Megaro Maximou
23 May 1997
Honorable Prime Minister Simitis,
On May 23, 1997, the ERRC sent a letter to your office, expressing concern over the creation of a new Roma settlement in Ano Liosia. In that letter, we called your attention to abuses including the violation of home and privacy, the destruction of property, forced resettlement, and the creation of an encampment regulated by restrictive measures. We note that we have not yet received any response to our letter. We also note that, according to our information, no Romani individuals from Ano Liosia have yet received compensation for damages sustained, and the group as a whole remains subject to unacceptable limitations on their personal freedom. Additionally, since our original letter, information has emerged which suggests a pattern of widespread harassment of Roma by municipal authorities, from the denial of refuse removal services to community expulsion and the destruction of property.
At the end of May 1997, the mayor and the prefectorial administration of the municipality of Kriti (Nea Alikarnassos, near Iraklion) allegedly ceased collecting the garbage in the Roma neighbourhood in the town. Unsanitary conditions have thus far led to at least one serious disease. Romani and non-Romani citizens living in the area contend that the withdrawal of trash-collection services is part of a wider strategy intended to force the 500 Roma of Kriti to leave the municipality.
The ERRC has also learned that the municipal authorities of Trikala have destroyed the homes of 20 families of Roma in the areas of Agroviz and Pyrgos, and have expelled the Roma living there.
Further, according to information received by the ERRC, on June 10, 1997, the tribunal of Thessaloniki ordered the expulsion of Roma from the area of Evosmos. The mayor of Evosmos and some owners had previously submitted a petition of temporary measures against 91 families of Roma on the grounds that the neighbourhood where they live is designated for recreational purposes. According to the court decision, the Roma of Evosmos will be imprisoned and fined 500,000 Drachma each if they refuse to leave the area.
The ERRC has further been informed that on July 23, 1997, the municipality of Agia Paraskevi sent bulldozers to demolish shacks in which twenty families of Roma live. Following hostile reaction by local Roma and, according to some sources, a refusal by the workers concerned to implement the decision, the operation was canceled. However, one week later, the bulldozers of the prefecture allegedly returned and destroyed all twenty huts. Roma living in the huts were expelled.
Forced migration of Roma in Greece is evidently not a new phenomenon. Local authorities reportedly expelled fifty families in the community of Trikala, mentioned above, in 1990. Also, in August 1996, 116 Roma living in Menemeni, near Thessaloniki, were transferred by local authorities in August 1996 to a second area, without the prior provision of any kind of infrastructure in the new location. Authorities had allegedly earlier promised the Roma a series of housing measures in order to secure their consent to the transfer. The situation in the new settlement is currently miserable. It has been reported that no sanitary facilities were provided. Holes in the ground dug to serve as toilets allegedly stand open, constituting a threat to the health of the residents. Additionally, the new settlement is situated dangerously close to local gas, ammonia, oil filter and brick factories.
Mr. Prime Minister, we note that not only do these measures constitute violations of international law, they also contradict the stated aims of the Greek government to devote its attention to improving the situation of Roma in Greece.
The European Roma Rights Center therefore appeals to your office to undertake immediate measures to stop the efforts of municipal authorities from expelling Roma from settlements, as well as to attend to improving the miserable situation of Roma nationwide. We thank you in advance for your attention in this matter.