Evictions, threatened evictions, destruction of property, harassment of Roma by authorities in Greece
07 November 2001
On September 13, 2001, municipal authorities in the Aspropyrgos municipality just outside Athens destroyed six homes and damaged one, all of which belonged to Greek Romani and Albanian Romani families, according to information received from the non-governmental organisation Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), the ERRC local monitor in Greece. The homes, together with all of their contents, were reportedly demolished under the orders of Aspropyrgos Mayor Mr G. Liakos and in view of a police patrol vehicle with two officers in it. According to eyewitnesses, these did not intervene in the destruction of the dwellings. No eviction notice had been served to the families. Municipal authorities reportedly only ended the operation following intervention by the Greek Ombudsman and the GHM. Abusive forcible evictions are in direct violation of international law, and discrimination in the application of such orders exacerbates the violation.
In other news, in a statement issued on September 5, 2001, the GHM warned of repeated threats of eviction and harassment by municipal police of approximately forty Romani families, living in appalling conditions in the area of Kalakonero, Rhodes. According to the statement of Mr Dionisios Aristopoulos, a 28-year-old Romani man living in the area of Kalakonero, on August 1, 2001, municipal police visited the settlement and, without showing any official documents, informed local Roma that if they did not leave by the following Monday, their dwellings would be demolished. When bulldozers did not show up on Monday, representatives from the community visited the municipality to inquire about their impending eviction. The representatives were then sent to the prefecture where they were told that the office was not aware of any pending eviction, but that the procedure to find an alternative place for settlement meeting the necessary living conditions had been initiated, though for only some of the families concerned.
On August 31, 2001, ten municipal police officers reportedly entered the settlement and removed either license plates or driver licenses from six or seven cars parked in the settlement. When residents protested, the officers explained that the plates would be returned only when the residents moved out of the settlement. Some were encouraged to rent houses, while others were told that they would only get the plates back when they boarded a ferry to leave the island. As of the beginning of October 2001, Mr Aristopoulos reported to the GHM that, since the latter had filed a complaint with the Greek Ombudsman on behalf of the community, harassment had ceased and community representatives had met with the prefect. They were told that an area had been found called Asghuru, approximately three kilometres from Rhodes, where 18 of the families could be relocated, but that authorities were still looking for another area to relocate the rest of the families, or a large one in which to rehouse all of the families concerned. On October 17, 2001, the GHM reported that all but one of the licence plates had been returned.
The GHM also reported that on August 29, 2001, at about 11:00 AM, municipal authorities in the Glykada Riganokampos area of the Municipality of Patras entered a Romani settlement with bulldozers and proceeded to "clean" the area. Two shacks belonging to the Greek Roma Panayotis and Asimakis Georgopoulos were demolished, along with their belongings in the shacks at the time. According to information provided by the non-governmental organisation Coordinated Organisations and Communities for Roma Human Rights in Greece (SOKADRE), municipal employees checked to see whether the shacks were inhabited but did not allow inhabitants to remove any of their belongings before they demolished the structures. Mr and Mrs Georgopoulos were reportedly absent at the time of demolition. Prior to the incident, no eviction orders or warrants had been presented to them, and from the available information, the municipal authorities do not appear to have acquired the required permission from the University of Patras, the owner of the land on which the settlement is situated, to enter the camp. The GHM reported that the demolition was allegedly also carried out without the authorisation or presence of a public prosecutor. This is required under Greek law, in cases of violation of privacy and the home.
Municipal councillor Vassili Skanavis arrived at the settlement after the Roma opposed further demolitions, and is alleged to have informed them that they had 20 days to vacate the area. In subsequent communication with the GHM, Mr Skanavis later denied having ordered Roma to vacate the settlement and stated that he had merely informed the Roma that the area had to be cleaned up and asked for their co-operation in this.
(ERRC, Greek Helsinki Monitor, SOKADRE)