NEWS

Roma housing problem persists

Most of the 300,000 Roma living in Greece are no longer nomads, with half owning their own land, but entire families continue to live in squalid conditions, recent research has shown. Thanks to a law granting mortgage loans to Roma at favorable rates, nearly two-thirds of Greece’s Roma citizens have come to own their places of residence, chiefly prefabricated buildings or shacks. Most of these Roma are also registered as citizens in their municipalities and have police identification cards. But their quality of life remains substandard, according to experts who addressed a Panhellenic congress about the national Roma population in Thessaloniki over the weekend. According to the results of a study revealed at the congress, most Greek Roma do not have access to drinking water, a third do not have the luxury of hot water and half have to make do without electricity. According to Makis Botis, the president of the National Roma Federation, around 800 Roma families have a housing problem. In some cases, as in the Roma settlement near Komotini, the authorities have not carried out a scheduled relocation. In the case of the settlement at Tyrnavos in Thessaly, the authorities never got around to creating the necessary infrastructure such as water and electricity connections. «Entire families are living in shacks made of plastic and sheet metal, surrounded by filth and rats,» Botis remarked. Another serious problem is that of unemployment, which has risen among the Roma population since the closure of three street markets in Thessaloniki and Kavala in 2005. A sharp increase in the number of Roma becoming addicted to drugs is linked to joblessness. According to the Organization Against Drugs (OKANA), 560 are on waiting lists for rehabilitation programs in northern Greece.