House Demolitions of Roma in Greece Continue
09 November 2004
Government Fails to Act to Stop Forced Evictions
The homes of eight Roma families in Greece were demolished in late October 2004 in violation of international and national law, according to the report of an emergency mission conducted last week in the city of Patras.
Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) found that the municipality of Patras and local police, without any official warning, arrived at the settlements of Makrigianni and Glafkos on 30 October 2004 and proceeded to force the Roma to dismantle the structures in which they lived and if the residents refused, the officials demolished the homes. Only one home was saved after a young Romani man stood in front of the excavating machine, a backhoe loader.
'The tragedy of this eviction' according to Panayote Dimitras, spokesperson for GHM, `is that these families, along with 27 other families, had their homes, which contained many of their personal possessions, razed to the ground two months earlier by the same municipality. They were just starting to rebuild their lives. The families are now left homeless'.
The failure of the Greek government to curtail anti-Romani abuses by local authorities, particularly in the area of housing, was the subject of a recent collective legal action before the Strasbourg-based European Committee of Social Rights. A decision in the matter is pending.
Claude Cahn, who handles the complaint on behalf of the European Rights Roma Center, said 'This most recent abuse only confirms what the Greek government essentially admitted to the Committee: that it will allow local authorities to forcibly evict Roma without providing alternate accommodation. It remains unclear whether the Greek government even understands its international law obligations. We do not yet see any end to the systemic human rights abuse of Roma in Greece.'
The Roma evicted on 30 October 2004 were migrants from Albania. But despite having legal residence permits, they were denied any due process. In a statement dated 4 November 2004, the municipality of Patras denied that the evictions carried out on 30 October 2004 targeted Albanian Roma. However, thirteen neighbouring Greek Roma families – also victims of the earlier evictions – were threatened with forcible eviction but their houses were spared. The Geneva-based UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has previously made clear that Greece should not discriminate between Roma on the basis of their nationality.
The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), an international non-governmental organisation that globally monitors forced evictions, expressed alarm at the continuing pace of demolitions. 'Greece has clear obligations under international treaties to ensure that evictions only occur in exceptional circumstances, with due process and with the provision of alternative accommodation. In this case, not even Greece's rather weak laws on eviction were followed,' said Malcolm Langford, Senior Legal Officer for COHRE.
Following criticism of the municipality's actions by local media, the Albanian Roma have not been harassed since and have proceeded to set up impromptu sheds in the areas where the evictions took place, in order to cope with worsening weather conditions.
The Government should move urgently to provide secure and appropriate accommodation for all the evicted families, pay compensation for destroyed property and prosecute the local officials and police who carried out the demolitions. GHM and ERRC are currently considering legal action in the case.
Panayote Dimitras, Greek Helsinki Monitor, Mobile: +30 69 44 43 19 41
Claude Cahn, European Roma Rights Center, Mobile: +36 20 98 36 445
Malcolm Langford, Centre on Housing Rights & Evictions, +49 163 820 1133
Nathalie Mivelaz, Centre on Housing Rights & Evictions, +41 765 113 291
Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) is an Athens-based human rights organisation specialising inter alia on Roma rights advocacy in cooperation with Romani communities. http://www.greekhelsinki.gr.
The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) is an international public interest law organisation engaging in a range of activities in the combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuses of Roma, in particular strategic litigation, international advocacy, research and policy development and training of Romani activists
The Centre on Housing Rights & Evictions (COHRE) is an international human rights organisation committed to protecting and promoting the right to housing. http://www.cohre.org.