Police attempt to evict families from settlement in Greece

05 September 1999

The Athens-based non-governmental organisation Greek Helsinki Monitor reported that on June 21, 1999, the Public Prosecutor of Athens, together with policemen and bulldozers, visited the Romani settlement in the Pefkakia region of the municipality of Agia Paraskevi approximately 10 km north of Athens. They went to execute an eviction order against two Roma who had been charged in absentia of trespassing on private land in 1997. Without first identifying the Roma, police asked two Romani families living on the private plots in question to take their personal belongings out of their shacks and leave the area so the bulldozers could pull the shacks to the ground. The Roma argued that they needed time to remove their belongings. Lengthy negotiations followed and the Roma signed a declaration that they would vacate the area in ten days. However, the Roma in question were illiterate and could not read the eviction order. After they consulted a lawyer it was discovered that the two Romani women against whom the court decision had been taken did not live at the site. A lawyer for the families will try to block the order.

This is not the only court decision against Roma living at the Pefkakia settlement, which is on both private and municipally-owned land. Two other Roma living nearby were also found guilty of trespassing on private land in 1997. The Roma were reportedly not present at the hearings. Ten Romani families living on the municipally-owned plots were served with an eviction notice at the same settlement in July 1997. The municipality destroyed the shacks built in a nearby field, owned by the municipality, on the grounds that the place was to become a sports and culture park. A new location was proposed to the Roma, but it was in the adjacent municipality of Koropi. The Roma rejected this location as it was far from their work and they feared they would be forced to live in isolation. Eventually the Roma were allowed to stay in Pefkakia, but have not been told they can permanently settle there, as the plans for building a park have not yet been abandoned.

The settlement of Pefkakia consists of twelve Romani families with approximately sixty members, who have been living there for between ten and thirty years. A municipal body called the Service for Town Planning has declared their homes illegal several times in the past, and the Roma living there have been fined. There is no water supply, electricity or sewage system in the settlement.

(Greek Helsinki Monitor)

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