Continuing Violence against Roma in Greece
07 May 2002
On February 15, 2002, the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), the ERRC's local partner in Greece, reported that at approximately 12 noon on February 8 or 9, 2002, unknown individuals entered the Roma settlement at Gerambela in Lambeti, on the outskirts of Pyrgos in north-western Peloponesse, and burned the sheds of ten Romani families to the ground, along with all their possessions. The Roma were reportedly working outside the settlement at the time of the incident, so no one was hurt. On February 13, 2002, GHM contacted the Pyrgos Police Department and spoke with the officer-in-command. He stated that the department knew of the incident through reports in the local press, and that they were not planning to do anything as the municipality had already initiated measures. He would not specify what measures the municipality was undertaking.
GHM notes that the non-Romani residents of the area have been complaining for some time about the settlement, stating that it constitutes a health threat and that the Roma engage in drug dealing. Some local non-Roma have reportedly requested the eviction of local Roma by the municipality. On July 2, 2001, the municipal council convened and according to GHM, the municipal council agreed to the residents' request and called upon the Prefecture authorities to proceed with the relocation of the settlement. GHM reports that for more than seven months, authorities have been discussing possible relocation areas for the settlement. According to the Athens-based, daily newspaper Eleftherotypia of February 14, 2002, following the fire, Municipal Counsellor Athanasios Sepetas reiterated the beliefs of the non-Romani residents of the area that local Roma constitute a health threat and engage in drug dealing, and stated that the Pyrgos Municipality planned to seek permission from the state to fence off the land where the houses of the Roma had been burnt down, to keep the Roma from resettling there. The daily also reported that, late in the evening on February 13, 2002, municipal bulldozers arrived at the settlement to clear out the area, but local Roma stopped them. The Roma told the daily that they want to rebuild their homes on the same site.