Case GRE 050203. ESCR
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Right to Adequate Housing/Racial Discrimination
Brief description of the situation
The International Secretariat of OMCT World Organisation Against Torture has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), a member of the OMCT network, of the arbitrary seizure, by the Nea Alikarnassos Municipality (adjoining the city of Heraklion in Crete), of a resettlement site destined for the local Roma community in Greece.
According to the information received, in mid January 2003 the Mayor of the Nea Alikarnassos Municipality, Mr. Sissamakis, authorized municipal employees to break into a site attributed to the resettlement of the local Roma community, including forcing the entrance lock and placing iron props inside.
The site in question has
reportedly been selected for the resettlement of the Roma community living
within the administrative borders of the
According to the information received, Mr. Sissamakis is opposed to the resettlement of the Nea Alikarnassos Roma community in this site, arguing that it belongs to the municipality and that it is simply not possible to create a Roma settlement next to a basketball court constructed with the budget of the 2004 Olympics. In place of the Roma settlement, Mr. Sissamakis reportedly proposed the construction of a parking lot for the adjoining basketball court.
In addition to its opposition to the resettlement, Mr. Sissamakis stated in an interview to the daily "Eleftehrotypia" (27.01.03) that Roma blemish one's sense of good taste, that they deal drugs, that he does not want them in his municipality and that they should not be accorded any privilege -such as the creation of a settlement-, that they could rent houses in Heraklion or Nea Alikarnassos.
This arbitrary seizure of the resettlement site destined for Nea Alikarnassos Roma reportedly occurs against the background of ongoing attempts to drive the Roma away and to oppose any resettlement plan that would take place within the Nea Alikarnassos administrative borders.
The resettlement plan,
opposed by the newly elected Mayor Mr. Sissamakis,
concerns around 500 Roma who are currently living in a camp situated within the
municipality's administrative borders in the locality of Dyo
Aorakia, between the highway and the industrial zone,
about 500 meters away from the nearest habitation in the municipality.
According to the information received, this camp was created around 15 years
ago by a decision of the
This camp is reportedly made
of shanty houses with no water supply, electricity, sewage system or organised garbage collection. This absence of basic
services has been reportedly used as a siege tactic, by the municipality
authorities, in order to get rid of the Roma. Indeed, it is reported that since
the establishment of the camp, the Nea
Alikarnassos authorities are doing their best to
drive the Roma away. For instance, the authorities refuse to have the Roma
registered in the municipal list even if most of them live there permanently
and despite the fact that 200 children were born there. Roma children were also
reportedly not able to attend local schools from 1987 to 1998 because the camp
was not within the enrolment boundaries of any school. Following 1998 and the
efforts of the
According to the information
received, the Nea Alikarnassos municipality took a firmer stand, since 1999,
regarding the Roma community living in the camp. It is reported that on
This scenario was reportedly
Since 2000, no other eviction attempts have been reported, although the police reportedly performs regular raids in the camp.
The Roma Situation and the 2004 Olympic Games
The arbitrary seizure of the resettlement site destined for Nea Alikarnassos Roma is also related to the preparation of the 2004 Olympic Games. Indeed, the Mayor of Nea Alikarnassos Municipality, Mr. Sissamakis, clearly stated that the establishment of a Roma settlement was inappropriate next to a basketball court built with the budget of the 2004 Olympics.
It is not the first time
that Roma communities are facing threats of eviction, actual evictions, or
violations of their right to adequate housing as part of the preparation for
the 2004 Olympics. For instance, the Roma communities that have settled in the
various areas of
There are fears, therefore, that as the date for the Olympics draws nearer, municipalities that want to evict their Roma communities will increasingly invoke the Olympics in order to evict the Roma without causing public censure or reactions from the Greek central authorities. With respect to this situation Mr. Alvaro Gil-Robles - the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner- requested the Olympic Organising Committee to publish the list of the sites that have been selected for the 2004 Olympic games in order to prevent that pressure is being put on the Roma that have settled or wish to settled in those areas. According to the Greek Helsinki Monitor, this request remains, so far, unanswered. Similarly, OMCT's appeals to the International Olympic Committee in this respect (May 2001 and February 2002), have so far remain unanswered.