Greece’s Roma reacted on Thursday to an amendment passed through Parliament on Tuesday which foresees the resettlement of thousands of the community’s members in 70 new camps without prior consultation.
“Naturally we hail the initiative and recognize its authors’ good intentions, but it goes against European regulations and common sense that the representatives of the Roma were absent from such a decision,” Antonis Batzalis, the special secretary of the Panhellenic Confederation of Greek Roma (ELLAN PASSE), told Kathimerini.
In an official announcement, ELLAN PASSE demanded that the amendment be withdrawn and a fresh discussion initiated with representatives of the Roma community and local authorities so that any plan put forward effectively addresses actual problems rather than being an exercise “on paper.”
The community is particularly chagrined that the government did not reach out to ELLAN PASSE, which represents the first successful effort in decades to unite disparate Roma clans and communities across Greece under one umbrella. It is estimated that the Greek Roma population numbers between 350,000 and 500,000.
“Thousands of them live in camps without running water or sewers, resulting in outbreaks of infections and hepatitis,” said Batzalis, describing the conditions at many camps as akin to a “humanitarian crisis.”
ELLAN PASSE is opposed to the idea of building more camps, as these tend to devolve into “ghettos,” Batzalis said, adding that the first step proposed by the confederation is a proper census of the country’s Roma community, followed by a concerted drive for the social integration of those members who desire it.