Greek Mayor Racially Abuses & Threatens A Romani Mother and Children Before Spraying Them With Water

21 May 2024

By Judit Ignácz

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) strongly condemns the recent actions of Perama’s Mayor, Giannis Lagoudakos, as captured in a disturbing video that was widely circulated online. The ERRC requests competent authorities to investigate Mayor Lagoudakos's behaviour and inspect the actions and responsibilities of the local police.

In the video, Mayor Lagoudakos is seen engaging in a heated confrontation with a Romani family, threatening a Romani woman with jail and separation from her children, equating their living conditions to those "for pigs" and directing a stream of water from a municipal tank at the Romani family. Lagoudakos can be heard saying: “Give me the hose here,” and a woman responding: “What if my children get hurt?” His response: “If you interfere, you will go to jail!” the mayor of Perama shouts angrily in the video footage. And he adds: “I will tell you what the babies will suffer from. The kids will end up in a shelter, and you will end up behind bars. This barn [nods towards the tent] is not for babies but for pigs. So, it’s not far from cholera…” 

The mayor shamelessly shared the video about the incident on his personal Instagram account, captioning it “Elimination of unsanitary conditions.” His aggressive behaviour and derogatory, dehumanizing comments are a blatant manifestation of racial discrimination, fuelling prejudice against Romani communities. His actions violated their human rights and the basic principles of human dignity and respect, as well as inciting hate, and stigmatising Roma, who are already in marginalised and vulnerable conditions. 

“The ERRC strongly condemns this incident and calls upon the public prosecutor to launch an ex officio investigation into the mayor's statements and alarming actions, as the victim is visibly a Romani woman. Considering the high likelihood his actions are motivated by racial bias, this crime should be prosecuted as an anti-Roma hate crime” said Jonathan Lee, the ERRC’s Advocacy & Communications Director. 

The ERRC and other Greek civil society organisations are formally addressing Greek authorities, urging them to take immediate action against such apparent disregard for human rights, including filing a criminal complaint before the Prosecutor of First Instance of Athens to ensure that this matter is taken seriously, and that justice is served. 

Housing of Roma in Greece

There are at least 265,000 Romani people in Greece according to figures cited by Minority Rights Group. In recent decades, the Roma have faced forced evictions by the authorities, leaving whole settlements evicted over the years. In 2007, over 100 Romani families were evicted from their decade-long residences in Aghiou Polykarpou Street, Athens, without alternatives from authorities. Denial of the right to adequate housing is a major issue faced by Romani communities. 

Data from 2021 documented by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs’ ‘General Secretariat of Social Solidarity and Fight Against Poverty’ found that 87% of Roma in segregated living areas are forced to live in deprivation, in prefabricated homes, with inadequate infrastructure, and a lack of access to drinking water, electricity, heating, and a toilet in their homes. Environmental racism against Romani communities is structural and tied to other forms of racially motivated discrimination and exclusion. 

On 25th March 2014, the ERRC filed a collective complaint against Greece under the Revised European Social Charter for failing to respect Article 16 of the Charter, taking into account that Roma did not effectively enjoy their right to housing, that national legislation discriminated against Roma in housing matters, and that Roma were often subject to forced evictions. 

Mayor Lagoudakos’ duty should be to ensure and provide adequate, decent living conditions to vulnerable groups and Romani communities instead of shaming and blaming them for living in poverty and marginalization. For the 2014-2020 period, Greece was allocated a total of €15.11 billion in EU funds, out of which at least 28.1% should have been spent on the European Social Fund, with at least 20% of that going towards promoting social inclusion and combating poverty. The racialised poverty experienced by Romani families is an enduring reminder of the failure of Greek politicians and policymakers to provide Greek citizens with basic infrastructure and housing. 

Hatred Trending in Greece

There is significant cause for concern over the growing trend of hate crimes against Romani communities, as well as the pattern of police killing Roma in Greece in recent years.

  • In 2023, Greek police shot an unarmed 17-year-old Romani boy, Christos Michalopoulos, after a car chase in the town of Thebes, north of Attica. According to media reports, the car, with four passengers—two boys and two girls aged 15-17—failed to stop when ordered. The police claim that one of the underage passengers tried to snatch the policeman’s gun, which 'went off' killing the boy. The victim’s brother claimed that it was the policeman who fired the gun.
  • In 2022, an unarmed 16-year-old Romani boy, Kostas Frangoulis, died of his wounds after being shot in the head by a police officer during a chase over an unpaid 20 euro gas station bill. The fatal shooting sparked three nights of rioting and protests in Greece.
  • In 2021, in Perama, seven Greek motorcycle police officers in pursuit of a stolen car opened fire on the three unarmed Romani occupants of the vehicle, killing an unarmed 18-year-old, Nikos Sabanis, and seriously wounding a 16-year-old. A video recording distinctly reveals 30 to 40 shots, and a radio conversation between the police operational center and the attending officers shows that the officers identified three Roma in the vehicle. The police press release claiming injuries to seven officers, a 20-year-old deceased with a criminal record, and minor injuries to a shot minor were disproven. In reality, no officers were hurt; the deceased was an 18-year-old without a criminal record, and the 16-year-old boy was seriously injured. In an open letter to the Greek Prime Minister, the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI) and the ERRC urged the authorities to investigate the possibility of racial motivation behind the disproportionate use of force, expressed concern at the national news coverage which triggered a wave of anti-Roma sentiment, with the prosecutor referring to Roma as a ‘social menace’.
  • In 2019, a 52-year-old Romani man was murdered in Solomos, Greece. According to police, the incident happened when two Romani men, aged 52 and 54, allegedly tried to steal some chickens from the property of a 35-year-old non-Romani man. The owner of the property saw the two men in his yard and opened fire on them with a hunting rifle, killing the Romani man.
  • In 2018, a 13-year-old Romani girl was shot dead in a racist incident in the camp near the town of Amfissa when a 34-year-old butcher drove into the camp and fired a shotgun from his truck. The bullet allegedly missed its intended victim and struck the thirteen-year-old girl.
  • In 2017, several human rights organizations (the ERRC, Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), Solidarity Now, Minority Rights Group Greece (MRG-G), and the Coordinated Organizations and Communities for Roma Human Rights in Greece (SOKADRE))—a network of 30 Roma communities and 5 Greek NGOs working on Roma rights—called for immediate action to ensure the safety of Romani families in Menidi, Athens, after angry mobs stormed a Roma neighborhood following the tragic death of an 11-year-old boy who was killed by a stray bullet, which according to the media, may have been fired by a Romani person. A video posted online by far-right groups shows arson attacks on the home of the Romani suspect, with people marching and chanting slurs such as “gypos, cunts, pigs, murderers.” The video ends with a threat of more violence against the Roma in Menidi. Despite the threats of further violence, no arrests were made.

Across Europe, politicians and public figures promote racist public statements, hate speech, and incitement of hatred against Roma. Hate speech often manifests into hate crimes, the Greek MEP Giannis Lagos was sentenced to 13 years in prison for directing Golden Dawn, a far-right party described by Greek courts as ‘a criminal organisation’ that has been linked to several acts of political violence. Utilizing his immunity as an MEP, Lagos left Greece for Brussels on the day of the verdict to avoid arrest. 

The ERRC stands in solidarity with Romani communities in Perama and throughout Greece. The ERRC and its partner organisations remain committed to fighting against racial discrimination and ensuring that the rights and dignity of all individuals are respected and protected. The responsibility of the authorities to respond and prevent such incidents is integral to promoting an inclusive and respectful society. They can no longer ignore or normalise the consistent occurrence of hate crimes against Romani communities in Greece.



Challenge discrimination, promote equality


Receive our public announcements Receive our Roma Rights Journal


The latest Roma Rights news and content online

join us

Find out how you can join or support our activities