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Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities

Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities

Firstly, the issue here is about the discrimination against the Roma people, who are denied access to the fundamental rights and social services. About half of the Greek Roma population live in squalid camps. Around 80% of Roma houses are not connected to electric power, 31 Roma settlements had no access to running water and 26 had no access to a sewage system. Due to the payment default the authorities (e.g. in Aspropyrgos and Spata) refuse to provide them with electricity and running water under the same conditions as applied to the non-Roma population. 45% of the Roma men and 57% of the Roma women are illiterate. 28% of the young Roma have never attended school. Only 6% of women and 17% of men continued their education after the age of 16. 38% of the Roma women had no health insurance (for the non-Roma women the figure is 7%). 32% of the Roma women face discrimination when looking for work.

Many Roma people do not have documents, and they are not included in the official civil records. The Government refused to financially assist the Roma, who could not pay the mortgage fees for the houses purchased, due to the income decline (in 2002-2008 60000 Euro worth of mortgage were take out by 7854 Roma families ).

There have been cases of Roma evictions. In early months of 2014, 74 Roma families in Halandri (near Athens) were at risk of being evicted. On September 30, Romani community in Athens staged a riot, blocking the streets and setting fire to rubbish containers, in protest to attempts at their forced relocation. In 2013, Roma evictions in the same village was suspended only after Human Rights Council intervened. The reluctance of the local school authorities to accept the Roma children into the schools is known, as well as their segregation into separate grades in Aspropyrgos and Sofades. 8 out of 10 Roma children are forced to leave school before completing their education. In 2014, Roma were affected by new licensing requirements for merchants. Many could not bear the burden of paying out 500 euros every two months in addition to tax.

Greece is reluctant to comply with Council for Human Rights recommendations regarding compensating Roma victims of police brutality or unlawful eviction.

There is also a problem with the registration of the Turkish and Macedonian minorities' associations. Muslims are being discriminated in the public sector and in the military. Turkish language is restricted even in places of their dense population. Since 2013, Greece halted three education support programmes for Roma and Mulsim children in Thrace. There are only two schools with bilignual education in the region. As a result, Mulsim students are forced to study in Greek-language schools. Since 2011, Thessaloniki University has been unsucessfully trying to license a Turkish-language faculty.

The authorities recognise only three religious denominations as public entities - the Orthodox Church, the Thracian Muslims and the Jewish community. The remaining denominations do not have this status, and therefore cannot own real estate as a religious structure. Ceremonies held in their houses of worship will be void without a special permit issued by the Ministry of Education. The most serious situation concerns the Muslims who do not have any legal mosques outside Thrace (more than 100 illegal mosques are under the threat of being shut down). The corresponding cemeteries, too, are absent. As for Thrace, the authorities appoint imams without the consent of the communities.

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, dedicated to violence and bullying in schools and published in February indicated that 33% of children were subjected to bullying from their classmates or teacher because of their ethnicity.

Another common discriminatory practice is racial profiling during ID checks – the so-called Xenios Zeus programme , launched in 2012 by the police and continuing in 2013-2014.

LGBT community also faces discrimination. Greece remains one of the few EU member states where same-sex relations are prohibited even as a civil partnership (civil partnership law for heterosexuals has been adopted in 2008). ECRI special resolution in 2013 did not improve the situation. On July 23, 2014, European Court of Human Rights ruled that the civil legislation of Greece violates the European Convention of Human Rights, since the laws do not provide for same-sex civil unions.

Compulsory HIV testing of alleged prostitutes, drug addicts and migrants, introduced in May 2012 and continued (with the exception of a break in the April-June) in 2013, was followed by photographs and personal data of HIV-positive persons published in the media, under the pretext of “ the public health protection”. In a number of cases, transgender people were fined for prostitution on the basis of their appearance. Since June 2016, a group of lawyers criticised the government that after the conclusion of the agreement on refugees between the EU and Turkey, a large number of refugees were forcibly sent back to Turkey. Lawyers draw public attention that Turkey is not a safe country for refugees. In addition, the Greek government was accused of not issuing and accepting applications for asylum claiming that Turkey is a safe country. Other sources argue that the Greek armed forces were permitted to use armed force to stop sea vessels. Based on these instructions in 2016 the Greek Coast Guard repeatedly fired on boats with refugees.

According to human rights organisations, the main problems of the asylum system in Greece lie in the difficulty of gaining access to the asylum procedure. Although Article 13 (1) of Law N. 3907/2011 provides for 13 regional asylum offices to be established in Attica, Thessaloniki, Alexandroupolis, Orestiada, Ioannina, Volos, Patra, Heraklion, Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Rhodes and Leros. Only 7 of them were operational, however. In addition, the Attica Regional Asylum Office in Athens continues to receive the vast majority of asylum applications, while it is not in a position to register all applications in a timely manner. Thus, persons in need of international protection, but who failed to apply for asylum seeker status, are not protected from arrest, detention and deportation.

At the same time, among the applicants there are vulnerable groups of the population, such as unaccompanied minors, disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with minor children, as well as victims of torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological and physical violence. According to the Refugee Service, such cases take precedence in registration.

In addition, there are other problems - inadequate conditions, lack of identification and support for people with special needs, unofficial expulsion of people, etc. There is no targeted national strategy to promote refugee employment and, therefore, many of them live in poverty. The situation can be summarised as follows:

  • Administrative detention and expulsion of illegal immigrants continues to occur, although in most cases these are people who simply could not apply for asylum seeker status.
  • Many refugees are immediately returned to Turkey, although many of them can be threatened there.
  • Overcrowding in detention centres often leads to the maintenance of criminals and illegal immigrants in the same institutions.
  • The concentration of refugees in certain localities, especially on small islands, leads to an increase in xenophobia and racist violence by the local population, causing a decline in tourism and a decline in the standard of living in these regions of the country.

It is worth mentioning about the attitude towards refugee children. After the Greek authorities reported in June 2016 that there were 22,000 refugee children of school age, the Ministry of Education issued a circular for compulsory registration of all refugee children (3-15 years of age ). This rule establishes that refugee children will attend school directly in the reception centres, and not in the schools themselves.

The legal regulation of this issue caused criticism from the Greek Helsinki Watch on the grounds that this decision promotes segregation “inside the society and is very similar to the practice used with Roma students.”

Refugee centres in Iasmos, Mytilini, Filakio, Komotini, Tuchero, Metaxadese, Amouddalez and Corinth, have been criticised for poor food quality, unsanitary conditions (due to lack of funds to pay for cleaners), lack of medical care and hot water, difficulties in obtaining access to phone and toilet facilities, as well as fresh air. In some places children were kept together with adults.

From December 2013 to February 2015, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Greece eight times for inhuman and degrading conditions in immigrant detention centres.

The Greek non-governmental organization National Council against Racism and Intolerance (RVRN) registered incidents of racist violence by the police. In 2016, RVRN recorded 6 incidents committed by law enforcement officers. In 4 cases, unaccompanied juniors were victims, and in 2 cases, asylum seekers were victims. The organization records a system of degrading treatment during the verification of documents of refugees and migrants.

One of the victims, for example, describes that a law enforcement officer at Victoria Square in Athens checked the documents, returned them to him and then kicked him. The victim said that he did not understand why this incident occurred, and that he is afraid to report this to the police.

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