Challeging Ongoing Forced Evictions of Roma in Greece
21 July 2005
On March 31, 2005, the Greek Helsinki Monitor reported the destruction of a home belonging to Mr. Georgios Kalamiotis, his wife and three children in the municipality of Aghia Paraskevi. At approximately 9:00 AM a police force of approximately twenty five police officers with riot shields and batons, two patrol cars, an ambulance and an unidentifiable number of plainclothes policemen arrived at the settlement. Also present were the commander of the Aghia Paraskevi Police Station as well as the second in command of the Police Directorate of Nothern Eastern Attica. At approximately 9:30 AM the court bailiff and the plainclothes policemen began emptying the house, a bulldozer then demolished the house.
On February 1, 2005, at approximately 8:30 AM, officials of the municipality of Aghia Paraskevi, Greater Athens, demolished the house of Mr. Thanassis Mitrou, a Romani man suffering from a serious heart condition. Judicial decisions calling for the eviction of two other Romani families in Aghia Paraskevi were served at the same time of the demolition, while similar action was expected in the ensuing weeks for the remaining seven Romani families in this community.
According to information provided to the ERRC by its Greek partner organisation Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), during the action, Mr. Mitrou and his family were ordered to vacate their house. Then, a court bailiff began emptying the house of a number of the family's possessions. Subsequently, officials used heavy machinery to knock the house to the ground, destroying it completely. Police officials oversaw the operation. The incident lasted until around 11:30 PM, when officials withdrew.
Two young Romani individuals, Ms. Evangelia Mitrou and Mr. Yannis Mitrou, were reportedly slightly injured by plainclothes police officers in the course of the action. Mr. Yannis Mitrou sustained light injuries as a result of being dragged from the building prior to its being knocked to the ground. Ms. Evangelia Mitrou was reportedly thrown to the ground by the Chief of the Aghia Paraskevi Security Department Mr. George Mataliotakis, after coming to the help of her mother, Ms. Kalliopi Mitrou, who was being pushed by the same police officer as she was shouting at police in protest at the destruction of the dwelling. To view the full text of the letter of concern sent to Mr. Kostas Karamanlis, Prime Minister of Greece, please visit the ERRC website at: http://www.errc.org/uploads/upload_en/file/01/37/m00000137.doc.
In a separate letter dated June 21, 2005 to Mr. Kostas Karamanlis, Prime Minister of Greece, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), the Coordinated Organisations and Communities for Roma Human Rights in Greece (SOKADRE), European Roma Information Centre (ERIO), European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), Minority Rights Group International (MRGI) and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) expressed their concern at the systematic violations of the right to adequate housing and the racist and discriminatory treatment of the Roma of Patras.
Roma communities (approximately eighty families), living in different parts of Patras, have been subjected to forced evictions and demolitions of their homes or threatened with evictions since August 2001. Two sheds in which Roma families were living in Riganokampos were destroyed on 29 August 2001. Thirty five families of Roma, who were Albanian migrants, were evicted from their homes in Riganokampos on 17 August 2004. Both evictions were described as 'cleaning operations'. While in the second case, two families of Roma of Greek origin, living next to the Albanian Roma, were given compensation in order to transfer their sheds to a neighbouring plot of land; no such arrangements were made with the Roma who had migrated from Albania even though they were legal residents in Greece.
Eight of the families of Albanian Roma, who were forcibly evicted from Riganokampos, settled in two neighbouring settlements in Makrigianni (where some Greek Roma were already settled). Another fifteen Greek Roma families were also relocated to the same settlements from Akti Dimaion, after an agreement with the local authorities. On 30 October 2004, the municipality of Patras and local police, without any official warning, arrived at the settlements of Makrigianni and Glafkos and proceeded to demolish four sheds and force the other Roma families to dismantle the structures in which they lived. Only the Albanian Roma families were forcibly evicted and despite having legal residence permits, were denied any due process. In a statement dated 4 November 2004, the municipality of Patras denied that the evictions targeted Albanian Roma, stating that they were aimed at Greek Roma who were not registered on the local municipal rolls. This statement is contradicted by the fact that the homes of thirteen neighbouring Greek Roma families, who had also been threatened with forcibed eviction in the past, were spared. Following criticism of the municipality's actions by local media, the Albanian Roma were allowed to return to the area and set up impromptu sheds. Other Albanian Roma, who were evicted from Riganokampos, also relocated to this area and fifteen families are now living on the site.
On 14 February 2005, six Greek Roma families were served with protocols of administrative evictions, asking them to vacate the plot of land they were squatting on. With the help of GHM/ERRC, the Roma filed for an injunction against these protocols, a motion for interim measures and a temporary order for a stay of execution of the eviction. The temporary order was granted and the evictions were suspended, until the other two applications could be heard in two separate court hearings in September 2005.
These six families were also served with notices to present themselves before a local magistrate on 24 May 2005 for alleged violations of the Sanitary Regulation of 1983. On 7 June 2005, charges were also brought against another ten Roma families living in Makrigianni and Petroto under the same regulation. Subsequently, all fifteen Greek Roma families living in Riganokampos were served with protocols of administrative evictions on 16 June 2005. The full text of the letter to the Prime Minister can be obtained by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Futher information on the situation of Roma in Greece can be found on the ERRC website at http://www.errc.org.