Greek authorities resettle Roma of Ano Liosia in restrictive camp

15 July 1997

According to information received by the ERRC, following the publication of several articles in the Greek press portraying Roma as drug dealers, in mid-April municipal authorities forcibly liquidated the Roma settlement of Ano Liosia and moved the Roma living there to a new area.

The transfer of the Roma families was reportedly accomplished with threats. Local officials gave the Ano Liosia Roma community as a whole an ultimatum to evacuate the area within several hours. Roma allege that they were told that they would be removed violently if they did not abandon the settlement immediately. This threat derived potency from its associative connotations, since the Roma settlement at Ano Liosia has previously been subjected to police raids, the most recent of which took place on October 27, 1996. The October raids were characterised by the destruction of personal property and the illegal detention of at least two residents of the area (See Roma Rights, Spring 1997).

During the mid-April events, Roma in possession of local residence permits were promised better conditions in the new location offered by the authorities. However, the majority of the group did not possess residence permits, and these were simply ordered to leave. Indeed, shortly thereafter, bulldozers razed the entire settlement, allegedly destroying personal property in the process.

Roma in possession of valid local residence permits — approximately 124 individuals from 25 of the original 100 families were evidently resettled in an area adjacent to a municipal parking lot. Despite official assurances, the facilities were sub standard: the plumbing in the "temporary" housing provided no running water; there were four public toilets for alt 124 persons; the electrical facilities experienced frequent power failures. A delegation of municipal authorities which visited the new settlement promised speedy action to correct the problems, but as of July 23, 1997, none of these promises had been fulfilled.

The European Roma Rights Center was disturbed to learn that, several days after the forced relocation, municipal authorities surrounded the new settlement with a wire fence and placed armed guards at the only opening. These guards allegedly have been searching residents' auto mobiles, demanding to see the identification papers of anyone entering, and questioning inhabitants about personal matters. Visitors have reportedly been for bidden from entering the settlement after 9 p.m. One Romani man in the new settlement told the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), "The guards did not let our relatives come inside and visit us, although they showed their identity cards."

Roma camps surrounded by wire fences and armed guards recall the worst atrocities this century has witnessed. The ERRC and the GHM have issued separate appeals to Greek Prime Minister Simitis to eliminate the ghetto-like conditions of the camp without delay. Since the ERRC issued protest, however, there have been further developments: a further ten dwellings in Ano Liosia were reportedly torn down on May 26 under the pretext that they had been "illegally constructed". The GHM states that alt ten dwellings had been built on land which the Roma in question own. The GHM has also documented recent abuses including expulsions and the denial of sanitary facilities in the municipalities of Evosmos, Kalamata, Nea Alikarrr assos, Phinikas, Pyrgos and Trikala. (ERRC, Greek Helsinki Monitor)

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