ERRC letter to the Chief Prosecutor of Greece concerning the destruction of Romani dwellings

03 April 1999

On March 1, 1999, the ERRC sent a letter to Chief Prosecutor of Greece Mr Panayotis Dimopulos expressing concern over the destruction of barracks inhabited by Roma in the town of Aspropyrgos in the Attica region of Greece. The text of the ERRC letter is as follows:

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of abuse, is concerned by reports of a serious new case of destruction of barracks in a Roma camp in Greece.

On February 16, 1999, authorities in Aspropyrgos, Attica, entered the Romani camp of Nea Zoi and destroyed dwellings and property. The camp has about 100 inmates; basics such as water supply or sewer system do not exist. According to reports, six employees of the Aspropyrgos municipality, approximately twelve local police officers, as well as Deputy Mayor Mr Constantinos Tsiggos took part in the raid. Upon entering the settlement, the officials told the Roma that five of the barracks must be evacuated so that they could be destroyed. The barracks were then crushed by bulldozers and the remaining debris set on fire, while the Roma protested. The Roma were not shown any document authorising the action. The inhabitants of the destroyed barracks were reportedly not given enough time to remove all of their belongings from their homes. The inhabitants of some of the barracks were not in the camp at that moment. One woman who was present while her dwelling was destroyed was critically ill. The police watched the proceedings but did not interfere. The Romani inhabitants of the settlement present at the time of the raid were allegedly told by raiders that they would be evicted from the entire region.

The Roma of the Nea Zoi camp have previously been promised water supply, a sewer system, a water heater etc; nothing has materialised. In 1996 the Greek government announced a plan for the creation of decent settlements for Roma living in similar conditions. Last year the local authorities reportedly urged them to move to the adjacent municipality of Ano Liosia, in a camp next to a dump. At that time, the Roma refused on grounds that the conditions in the camp to which they were supposed to move were worse than in their present location. In addition, they argued that their children would be too far from the school which they are now attending.

Instead of having their conditions improved, the Roma of the Nea Zoi settlement are now threatened with eviction in winter and some have already been rendered homeless. Property belonging to them has been destroyed by public servants.

We urge you, Mr Chief Prosecutor, to undertake a prompt, thorough and effective investigation into the above-described events and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.

We would appreciate receiving information about any action taken by your office concerning this matter.

Chief Prosecutor of Greece Mr Panayotis Dimopulos can be contacted at the fax number (301) 64 11 523. The Roma of Aspropyrgos and many similar camps in Greece would benefit from any additional letters of concern from the public at large.

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