Community expulsions in Greece
07 November 1997
Reports from Greece indicate wide spread attempts by municipal authorities to expel Roma from settlements, or else to make conditions unbearable enough that Roma are forced to leave.
On July 27, the Greek daily Epohi reported that the Prefecture ordered the destruction of many of the Roma dwellings in the Pefkakia area of Agia Paraskevi. The municipal council of the area was reportedly unanimous in its sup port of the decision. The municipal authorities attempted to justify the decision by claiming that the land belonged to thirteen non-Roma families. The decision to destroy the settlement was evidently not immediately carried out, due to the refusal of municipal employees to acquiesce to the wishes of the Mayor. According to a Greek Helsinki Monitor report of August 3, however, bulldozers did eventually destroy the homes of twenty Roma families.
Forced expulsion is not the only means used by local authorities in Greece to expel Roma, however. At the end of May 1997, the municipal authorities of Nea Alikarnassos in Kriti allegedly stopped collecting the refuse in the Roma settlement there. The ensuing unsanitary conditions have resulted in widespread disease among Roma. According to a report in Exoussia on July 22, due to the non-collection of refuse from the settlement and the resulting unhygienic conditions, half of all the Roma there suffer from hepatitis A and B. Mr Kalamiotis, Mayor of Nea Alikarnossos, has been urging the government to improve the settle ment infrastructure, possibly due to the fact that he himself is being sued for allowing the situation to deteriorate to such an extent. Mr Leonidas Drandakis, a lawyer of Iraklion of Kriti and a member of Amnesty International sued him for "violation of duty" and "ill treatment" of the Roma, reported Greek Helsinki Monitor on August 3. The case had not yet been brought to court at the time of writing. The district attorney has also taken legal action against the mayor for "the creation of danger to the public health", which constitutes a criminal offence. Following this legal action, the mayor was forced to take some positive steps such as ordering disinfection and supplying large rubbish bins, etc. Conditions in Nea Alikarnossos for the moment, however, remain grim.
Alleged 'official' attempts are being made to relocate the Roma from the area, but this in itself is proving to be an impossible task as no other municipality is willing to accept them.
Similar community expulsions and attempted community expulsions have taken place all over Greece. Kathimerini reported on July 18 that in the Roma settlement in Patras, failure by the authorities to provide any kind of infra structure for the Roma has resulted in unsanitary conditions. This in turn has led to at least ten cases of meningitis among children living there. The ERRC has also learned that the municipal authorities of Trikala have destroyed the homes of twenty 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.
On September 3, the ERRC wrote to Greek Prime Minister Simitis, appealing to his office to undertake immediate measures to stop the efforts of municipal authorities from expelling Roma from settlements. The ERRC also expressed frustration that despite appeals by numerous non-governmental organisations including the ERRC, a restrictive camp established by Greek authorities in Ano Liosia remain.
(ERRC, Greek Helsinki Monitor)