UN Critical of Greece's Roma Rights Record - United Nations Social and Economic Rights Body Concerned at

22 June 2004

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) welcomes the Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights concerning 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 entered into extensive detail in commenting on violations of the housing rights of Roma. It commented particularly on human rights violations against Roma in the context of the 2004 Olympic games, noting that it is "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 noted "the substandard conditions" in which many Roma live and urged Greek authorities "to take measures towards providing for all Roma, including itinerant and non-Greek Roma, adequate and affordable housing with legal security of tenure, access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, electricity and other essential services, and meeting their specific cultural needs. The Committee further recommended that "the State party ensure the participation of Roma representatives in the assessment of the Integrated Action Plan for the Social Integration of Greek Roma and that it include information on the practical effects of the implementation of the Plan, as well as its applicability to non-Greek Roma legally residing within the State party's territory, in its second periodic report".

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 is "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 "[m]embers of other [than Turkish] linguistic groups have no possibility to learn their mother tongue at school". On the matter, 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".

Failure by the Greek state to recognise officially all but one minority in Greece was also noted by the Committee. It 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)". Accordingly, the Committee requested the State party "to include in its next report information on measures taken to preserve, protect and promote minority languages and cultures, which should not be limited to the Muslim minority in Thrace".

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".

The full text of the UN Committee's Concluding Observations is available HERE.

In the run-up to the Committee's review of Greece's compliance with the Covenant, 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, inter alia, 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 at: Cleaning Operations: Excluding Roma in Greece.

More information on the human rights situation of Roma in Greece is available at: http://errc.org.

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