IV. DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE ROMA - Доклад независимого эксперта по вопросам меньшинств Гей Макдугалл


50. Discrimination against Roma is experienced in Greece as in other European countries, although some Roma are relatively well integrated into society. Community members described a high level of societal discrimination in all fields of life including education, housing and employment.

51. The Government does not consider the Roma a minority within Greece, rather a vulnerable social group consisting of 250,000 to 300,000 persons. It notes that this viewpoint is shared by Roma who consider themselves an integral part of Greek society. Government officials revealed a widely held belief that Roma are responsible for many of the problems that they face. One official noted: “The Greek State would like to integrate Roma fully, but they don’t like that a different style of life is imposed on them.”

52. The Independent Expert visited three Roma settlements: near Spata, Aspropyrgos, and in the municipality of St. Varvara.
^ А. Housing and employment

53. The Roma settlement near Spata is located on a hill top five kilometers from the town, accessible only via a rough track. The community was relocated by the local government in 2000 after being evicted from a previous location on the outskirts of the town. It is therefore a temporary State sponsored settlement on land ceded by the State. Prefabricated housing units were provided from the State budget. Currently over 20 families including about 20 children of primary school age, live on the site. Unverified claims suggest that the site was previously used for disposal of toxic waste.

54. The settlement is not serviced with electricity, running water or regular garbage/waste collection services. It relies on generators and two water storage tanks provide water for washing and drinking. Community members described problems including lack of adequate quantities of water and poor water quality due to mould inside the storage tanks. Human waste is stored in cess pits that should be cleared frequently. Community members noted that they frequently overflow causing health risks including cases of Hepatitis A, while confirming they do have access to health care.

55. Families are not permitted to extend prefabricated homes provided by the State beyond the original 25 square meters, regardless of the number of occupants. Families have no documents to establish legal residence in the settlement. Some families (reportedly 3 or 4) had applied to a government housing loans scheme for Roma families. However since families survive by scavenging, salvaging and begging, it was considered highly unlikely that any would meet income criteria. The government subsequently informed the Independent Expert that five families have been granted loans of 60,000 Euros each.

56. The settlement of Psari, Aspropyrgos is home to approximately 230 Roma families. It is considered an illegal settlement on privately owned land despite reportedly existing for about 35 years. Shacks made from scavenged materials provide one or two room accommodation for large families. The settlement lacks access to electricity and requires generators. There is no running water and community members fill containers from a water tap in a public park which is regularly locked by the municipality to stop Roma from using it. Most Roma in the settlement earn irregular incomes from scavenging and collection of scrap metals.

57. The settlement is the subject of legal eviction proceedings by private land owners. Community representatives claim that land owners have no direct interest in the eviction but are pushed to pursue it by the municipal Mayor. Representatives stressed good relationships with the police, that they are fair with them and have protected them in the past including from demonstrators. The government notes that during implementation of the housing assistance program at least 31 loans have been granted to Roma families living in the Municipality of Aspropyrgos while others are pending approval.

58. The European Roma Rights Center has accused Greece of failing to implement 2004 and 2006 European Committee of Social Rights findings that Greece’s treatment of Roma in the field of housing violates 3 aspects of the European Social Charter. In June and September 2007, civil society groups reported that 135 Roma families were forcibly evicted, some twice in a few days, in Athens, Patras and Halkida, without the relevant procedural safeguards being respected and that hundreds of Roma families are threatened with similar evictions in Greater Athens, Patras, Crete and Rhodes.17

59. The Municipality of St. Varvara, provides a positive example of integration of the Roma community into mainstream society. Approximately 8-10 percent of the population are Roma, who play an active role in the community. Municipal representatives described the relative success of Roma in the community and higher than usual Roma success in education, including some university entrants. Roma managed to open numerous small businesses. Local authorities, including Roma, described a high level of social integration while acknowledging some problems. The Roma live in all parts of the town, rather than in isolated communities. Community intermediaries play an important role and the Roma do not require specialized services. Roma representatives acknowledged that they had not always felt comfortable but described an enlightened neighborhood that is an example to others.

^ B. Education

60. During the visit to the Spata area it was highlighted that none of the children living in the Roma settlement currently attend school. Following a visit by European Parliamentarians in 2003, a bus was provided to take about 18 children to school, however it ceased operation reportedly due to lack of funds. The settlement is some five kilometers from the nearest school making it extremely difficult for young children to attend without transport provision. One mother stated that her children were refused registration, reportedly on the grounds that the school was full and there are no special facilities for Roma children. She was told that the children should have been registered previously, but she had never been informed of this requirement.

61. In Psari, Aspropyrgos, education for the settlement’s children remains a highly controversial issue and the subject of a European Court of Human Rights judgment,18 In 2004 Roma children from the Psari, Aspropyrgos Roma settlement were refused registration to attend a local school. Following brief attendance, non-Roma parents objected to the extent that all Roma children were placed in special afternoon classes. After further parent protests, Roma students were removed to a prefabricated annex distant from the main school. In 2006/7 the annex was defaced with racist slogans and destroyed by fire and a Roma pupil was attacked resulting in withdrawal of Roma children from any classes. In June 2008 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the conditions of school enrolment for Roma children and their placement in an annex for special preparatory classes because of their Roma origin, constituted a violation of Articles 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with article 2 of Protocol 1 (right to education), and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention. To date, Greece has not satisfactorily resolved the situation in compliance with the European Court ruling.

62. The Independent Expert visited the annex which consists of a fenced, concrete, compound with two metal prefabricated units, one of which is used for teaching. At the beginning of the school year the teaching unit had been repaired following vandalism and had no teaching facilities such as desks and chairs. A permanent security presence is required to guard against further vandalism. It is important to stress that the vandalism was not carried out by the Roma themselves.

63. At the time of the Independent Expert’s visit, Roma children did not have full and equal access to education. The Roma children have been placed in the same “annex” of the main school that was the subject of the European Court judgment, reportedly due to lack of places in the main school and lack of specialist teachers and preparatory facilities for Roma. Community members and civil society representatives believe that pressure from parents and the local authorities, are a significant factor in the children’s exclusion.

64. Ministry of Education representatives acknowledge continuing problems regarding education of Roma. They agreed that significant challenges stem from local authorities and from communities that do not want the Roma to attend mainstream schools, resulting in some cases in “branches” of schools being opened for Roma. They noted their belief that a degree of separate and specialist “catch up” schooling is required prior to Roma children joining the mainstream school system, since there is not a culture of going to school among some communities and children may need assistance to integrate fully.

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