Albanian Roma Evicted in Greece
10 May 2003
ERRC field research in northern Greece, conducted in partnership with the Athens-based non-governmental organisation Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) and with the co-operation of the Minority Rights Group - Greece (MRG-G), revealed that, on September 5, 2002, at 8:30 AM, in the Phoenikas area of the Kalamaria municipality, in Thessaloniki, approximately twenty Albanian Romani families comprising approximately one hundred people, including about seventy children, settled on private property, were forcibly evicted. On September 4, 2002, Mr Arben Ibizi, a 33-year-old Romani man, told the ERRC/GHM/MRG-G that in the days previous, police officers had come to their settlement and informed them that they had to move from the area as the owner of the property had filed a complaint against them. Twenty-eight-year-old Mr Arben Zerellari stated that during one visit, an officer threatened that if they did not move away, bulldozers would destroy everything in the settlement. On the day of the eviction, two bulldozers and two dump trucks entered the settlement, along with eight special forces police officers, two regular police officers and three municipal police officers. One of the bulldozers reportedly proceeded to destroy the four remaining sheds in the rain, as the owners of the rest had already dismantled theirs. The demolition ended only when an ET3 state television crew arrived and began to film the eviction. Roma from the community informed the ERRC/GHM/MRG-G that they did not receive an eviction protocol. Following the eviction, the Roma reportedly formed smaller groups and moved to various new locations. On September 11, 2002, the ERRC/GHM/MRG-G filed a complaint with the Thessaloniki Misdemeanors Prosecutor's Office against the illegal eviction. Included in the complaint was Mr Chistodoulos Ekonomides, Mayor of Kalamaria, for inciting racial hatred in statements made to the Macedonian Press Agency on September 4, 2002, in which he claimed, "We cannot let them stay [the Albanian Roma who live in the Phoenikas settlement] on a plot of land, next to which people are living." As of January 28, 2003, the preliminary investigation of the Thessaloniki Misdemeanors Prosecutor's Office into the incident had been completed. However, the Albanian Roma had not been called to testify, according to ERRC/GHM research.
(ERRC, GHM, MRG-G)