Homes Intended for Roma Given to Non-Roma in Greece
10 May 2003
On October 9, 2002, the Athens-based daily newspaper Elefthero-typia reported that five prefabricated houses intended for Romani families had been provided to non-Roma. According to the article, on September 20, 2002, the request of the Municipality of Lechaina, in northwestern Peloponnese, for the dispatch of five prefabricated houses, was forwarded to the Ministry of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works, the competent body, by the original recipient of the request, the Ministry of Interior. On October 2, 2002, Mr Ioannes Tsaklides, Deputy Minister of Environment, Town Planning and Public Works, authorised the "temporary transfer of five container type prefabricated houses, of 36 square metres surface area, to the Municipality of Lechaina in the Ilia Prefecture [...] in order to meet the housing demands of the municipality's Gypsies." However, Elefthero-typia reported that on October 8, 2002, the prefabricated houses were delivered to non-Roma, some of them outside the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Lechaina. The daily quoted municipal staff as having stated that Mr Tsakis Antona-kopoulos, the local Member of Parliament for the ruling socialist party, facilitated the delivery of the prefabricated homes to local ethnic Greek families. Mr Antonakopoulos was quoted by the daily as stating that he had done his duty by securing housing for homeless families, notwithstanding that the houses had been intended for Roma. On October 9, 2002, the Athens-based non-governmental organisation Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), the ERRC's partner in monitoring Roma rights in Greece, filed a complaint with the Misdemeanors Prosecutor of Athens against the Mayor of Lechaina, Mr Antonakopoulos and unknown officials in the Ministry of Environment, Town Planning and Public Works and the Ministry of the Interior who consented to the dispatch of the prefabricated houses, without confirming first that the prefabricated houses would be delivered to their intended recipients.
On October 15, 2002, the ERRC/GHM met with Mr Dimitrios Hadjigiannis, the outgoing mayor of Lechaina. Mr Hadjigiannis claimed that he was not officially responsible for the allocation of the prefabricated homes to ethnic Greeks, because none of the official documents bore his signature and the list of persons to whom the prefabricated homes should have been allocated had not been sent to the Ministry of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works, as required. Without this, the homes reportedly should not have been delivered at all. On October 18, 2002, Eleftherotypia reported that the Ministry of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works, the Ministry of the Interior, as well as the Western Greece Region, were conducting official inquiries to ascertain whether any impropriety had taken place and impute administrative liability to the officials involved. There were widespread rumors that the allocation of the prefabricated homes to ethnic Greeks was intended to bribe potential voters during the October 13, 2002 municipal and prefectural elections. On January 29, 2003, Eleftherotypia reported that Mr Belivanis, General Secretary of the Western Greece Region, stated that the official inquiry had been completed and forwarded to the Ministry of the Interior. Disciplinary measures were reportedly recommended with respect to one Ministry of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works employee, a local municipal counsellor and Mr Hadjigiannis. Further, the police officer present at the time the homes were delivered and who had, in fact, received one of the homes, was fined 50 Euro. The human rights situation of Roma in Greece is the subject of Cleansing Operations: Excluding Roma in Greece, a Country Report by the ERRC and the GHM published on April 6, 2003.
(Eleftherotypia, ERRC, GHM).
Christos Danopoulos and his family, forced to live on the streets following