Public school in Greece closes in order to exclude Romani children

10 April 2001

On November 13, 2000, school authorities in the municipality of Halastra near Thessaloniki, Greece, closed a local public primary school for approximately one week as a result of pressure from the local non-governmental parents and guardians association, according to information provided to the ERRC by the Thessaloniki-based Drom Network for Gypsy Social Rights. The association reportedly protested against the enrollment of 32 Romani children from the Aghia Sophia Gonou community, near Thessaloniki.

In October 2000, the Greek government had relocated 251 Romani families, living in destitute conditions, to prefabricated houses in Aghia Sophia Gonou. These families included 136 Romani children of primary school age, who were directed by the Thessaloniki Prefecture to four schools in the adjacent municipalities, including Halastra, with the consent of their parents. In all four schools, parents of the Greek children reportedly protested against the enrollment of Romani children. In Halastra, where there were already 27 Romani children, the parents and guardians association, allegedly declared that “they had enough Romani children already” and refused to allow more. According to DROM Network the government made no attempt to stop the protests. DROM Network and the Greek Helsinki Monitor have brought the issue to the attention of the public prosecutor. As of April 19, 2001, there had been no response to the complaint. A compromise was eventually reached, according to which only half of the 16 Romani pupils newly allocated to the school would continue their education there, and the school re-opened around one week later.

In a similar incident, the newspaper Eleftherotypia, in an article dated November 22, 2000, disclosed a proposal by the Mayor of Nea Alikarnasos, Crete, to expel fifteen Roma pupils from the 3rd and 4th Primary Schools, so as to prevent these schools from becoming “overburdened” with Romani pupils. Despite complaints, including one from the Synaspismos party’s Prefecture Political Commission, the policy of allocating Romani children so as not to “overburden” individual schools continues. The Roma in Nea Alikarnasos faced illegal eviction at the instigation of the same Mayor in August 2000 (see Snapshots). 

(DROM Network, ERRC, Greek Helsinki Monitor)

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