Greek Ombudsman Pressures Authorities to Act

10 July 2002

On February 26, 2002, the Greek Ombudsman's Office sent a letter to the Office of the General Secretary of Attica Periphery, urging that office to act to remedy the dire situation of Roma living in the region. The letter followed up on a similar letter sent previously to the Prefect of Athens, to which no response was received. Stressing that both Roma and their non-Romani neighbours are adversely affected by the perpetuation of the current situation, the Ombudsman asserted the need to take immediate measures. Particularly, the Ombudsman noted the "[…] unacceptable, in every respect, position of the Roma in our country and especially in the capital city itself and its suburbs at the dawn of the new millennium […]," which leads to "[…] the endangerment of public order and security (by, for example, the potential outbreak of incidents of racial hatred), social cohesion and particularly, of our national dignity as a society governed with respect to its citizens and the rule of law." In addition, the Ombudsman stated that, "This danger is so immediate and has reached such proportions that it requires the prompt implementation of measures for defusing the existing situation and for the short-term restoration of conditions of dignified living and peaceful coexistence with all who live near these vulnerable communities." While noting that certain positive measures have been initiated, the Ombudsman expressed concern that the implementation of such measures has been significantly delayed and that many times the local government authorities have remained opposed to implementing any measures to remedy the situation of Roma. The Ombudsman also stated that while the current Governmental Comprehensive Plan of Action is a step in the right direction, it must be accompanied by short-term relief measures for Roma, due to "the explosive proportions […] which these problems have assumed," referring to the "social degradation and the absolute marginalisation of our fellow Romani citizens, who subsist under humiliating, in every respect, conditions."

(ERRC, Greek Helsinki Monitor)

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