MINELRES: No End Yet to Housing Rights Abuses in Greece

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Tue Aug 9 17:21:34 2005


Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>


NGOs Again Appeal for Stop on Forced Evictions as Greece Fails to
Implement European Social Charter Decision

Budapest, Athens, 2 August 2005: For the second time since the European
Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) found Greece in violation of the
European Social Charter for systematically frustrating the rights of
Roma to adequate housing - a decision made public less than two months
ago - an NGO coalition has appealed to Greek authorities to cease and
desist from forcibly expelling Roma from their housing because housing
rights abuses of Roma continue apace in Greece.

In a letter sent on July 29 and addressed to the mayor of Athens, nine
NGOs urged Greek authorities to withdraw plans to forcibly evict
approximately 70 Albanian Roma families currently living in squalid
conditions in three communities in the area of Votanikos, Athens, and to
undertake measures to ensure their adequate housing. No plans to avoid
their homelessness had been made available. The full text of the letter
is available at: 
http://cm.greekhelsinki.gr/uploads/2005_files/ghm720_on_athens_roma_evictions_en
glish.doc.

Earlier, on June 21, 8 NGOs were compelled to undertake joint action
after 15 Romani families living in the Riganokampos settlement in Patras
were served with eviction orders on 16 June. Patras has been the scene
of repeated and regular forced evictions of Roma since at least 2001.
The full text of the  June 21 letter is available at: 
http://cm.greekhelsinki.gr/uploads/2005_files/ghm707_on_patras_roma_evictions_en
glish.doc.

NGOs joining the July 29 action are:

* Amnesty International (AI)
* The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)
* The Coordinated Organisations and Communities for Roma Human Rights in
Greece (SOKADRE)
* European Roma Information Office (ERIO)
* European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC)
* Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM)
* International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF)
* Minority Rights Group International (MRGI)
* World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Background:

A state of illegality currently reigns in Greece with respect to the
effective realisation of the right to adequate housing where Roma are
concerned. The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) decision in
the matter of European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) v. Greece, rendered in
February 2005 and made public on June 8, held that the Greek policies
with respect to housing and accommodation of Roma infringe Article 16 of
the European Social Charter due to:

- The insufficient number of dwellings of an acceptable quality to meet
the needs of settled Roma;
- The insufficient number of stopping places for Roma who choose to
follow an itinerant lifestyle or who are forced to do so;
- The systemic eviction of Roma from sites or dwellings unlawfully
occupied by them.

In the decision, the Committee stated that "one of the underlying
purposes of the social rights protected by the Charter is to express
solidarity and promote social inclusion. It follows that States must
respect difference and ensure that social arrangements are not such as
would effectively lead to or reinforce social exclusion. ... The
imperative to avoid social exclusion, respect difference and not to
discriminate applies to all groups of Roma; itinerant and settled. ...
the principle of equality and non-discrimination form an integral part
of Article 16 as a result of the Preamble."

The Committee also recalled that "the ultimate responsibility for
implementation of official policy lies with the [...] state."

In assessing the question of the insufficiency of permanent dwellings of
an adequate standard for Roma in Greece, the Committee stated: "The
Committee finds that Greece has failed to take sufficient measures to
improve the living conditions of the Roma and that the measures taken
have not yet achieved what is required by the Charter, notably by reason
of the insufficient means for constraining local authorities or
sanctioning them. It finds on the evidence submitted that a significant
number of Roma are living in conditions that fail to meet the minimum
standards and therefore that the situation is in breach of the
obligation to promote the right of families to adequate housing laid
down in Article 16."

In its review of the problem of an insufficiency of camping sites for
Roma who choose to follow an itinerant lifestyle or who are forced to do
so, the Committee held: "... the conditions for temporary encampment as
well as the conditions regarding the amenities are extremely strict ...
in the absence of the diligence on the part of the local authorities to
select appropriate sites and on the other the reluctance to carry out
the necessary works to provide the appropriate infrastructure, Roma have
an insufficient supply of appropriate camping sites. The Committee
therefore holds that the situation constitutes a violation of Article 16
of the Charter."

As to forced evictions, the Committee "notes that the government
provides no real information on evictions, (either statistics, or
remedies for those unlawfully evicted or examples of relevant case law).
It fails either to comment on or contradict the information provided by
the ERRC on collective evictions of Roma both settled and itinerant
without the provision of alternative housing and sometimes involving the
destruction of personal property."

"The Committee considers that illegal occupation of a site or dwelling
may justify the eviction of the illegal occupants. However the criteria
of illegal occupation must not be unduly wide, the eviction should take
place in accordance with the applicable rules of procedure and these
should be sufficiently protective of the rights of the persons
concerned. The Committee considers that on these three grounds the
situation is not 
satisfactory."

In addition to finding three separate violations of the Article 16
guarantees of the European Social Charter, the Committee expressed
dismay at the apparent inability of the Greek government to produce
statistical data of relevance to any assessment as to the efficacy of
policy:

"The Committee notes that, in connection with its wish to assess the
allegation of the discrimination against Roma made by the complainant
organisation, the Government stated that until recently it was unable to
provide any estimate whatsoever of the size of the groups concerned. To
justify its position, it refers to legal and more specifically
constitutional obstacles. The Committee considers that when the
collection and storage of personal data is prevented for such reasons,
but it is also generally acknowledged that a particular group is or
could be discriminated against, the authorities have the responsibility
for finding alternative means of assessing the extent of the problem and
progress towards resolving it that are not subject to such
constitutional restrictions."

The full text of the decision by the European Committee of Social Rights
is available at: 
http://www.coe.int/T/E/Human_Rights/Esc/4_Collective_complaints/List_of_collecti
ve_complaints/RC15_admiss.pdf


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