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Assessment for Roma in Greece

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Roma in Greece, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 1 April 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Greece Facts
Area:    131,957 sq. km.
Capital:    Athens
Total Population:    10,662,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

Roma in Greece are unlikely to engage in violent political tactics in the foreseeable future. They are small in number, unorganized, and have been repressed in the past and have not acted in such a manner, so it is unlikely that they will begin to do so.

It is difficult to determine if the Roma will begin to engage in other, non-militant forms of collective action. They do have the risk factors associated with protest, such as government repression, and cultural and political restrictions, but they have had these factors for a while and no protest has occurred. Furthermore, prior and during the 2004 Olympics, repression against Roma intensified. However, when confronted with repression in the past, Roma in Europe have preferred to move to a new location rather than to protest their situation. It is clear that prejudice and discrimination against the Roma remains a problem in Greece. As is the case elsewhere, it is this very prejudice and discrimination that is one of the causes for the economic, social and political situation that perpetuates the prejudice and discrimination.

Analytic Summary

The Roma began arriving in Greece in the Middle Ages (TRADITN = 1), and have spread throughout the country (GROUPCON = 0) in search of better economic opportunities (MIGRANT = 3). Due to their nomadic lifestyle, and lack of concentration within Greece, the Roma as a group are not cohesive and organized (COHESX9 = 3). Although the Roma in Greece speak the same language as the rest of the population (LANG = 1), they have a different culture (CUSTOM = 1) and some, but not all, have a different religion (BELIEF = 2). The Roma are easily identifiable due to their physical appearance (RACE = 3), and this had lead to discrimination and repression by both the Greek government and the citizens of the country. As is the case elsewhere there is considerable prejudice against the Roma in Greece. They are considered lazy, dirty and prone to crime. Also, their refusal to assimilate is not well received in Greece's nationalistic society.

The Roma of Greece face harsh demographic disadvantages (DEMSTR03 = 6) due to both their higher birth rates and poor health conditions. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that there has been a large influx of Roma to Greece recently, and the government has recently started to forcibly resettle various Roma communities. The group faces exclusionary policies by the government (POLDIS03 = 4) politically, and face numerous restrictions. Most of these restrictions are due to the policy not to grant the Roma citizenship. Some municipalities attempt to prevent settlement by Gypsies in their area by refusing to register them as citizens (all Greek citizens have to be registered in a municipality). Without such a registration, Gypsies are not allowed to vote, cannot obtain the papers required to start a business and are excluded from a range of government services. Economically the Roma are excluded socially rather than by government policies (ECODIS03 = 3). Discrimination and racism have prevented the Roma from gaining access to the higher paying jobs in the society. Access of the Roma to state services including education and medical care is very low due to their nomadic lifestyle. While there have not been reports of conflict between the Roma and the citizens of Greece (COMCON = 0), they have faced repressive action by the state. In 1999 the government began forcefully resettling the Roma community into designated areas, and there have been reports of the police coming to Roma settlements and attacking people, whether they were involved in any illegal activities or not. In the leadup to the 2004 Olympics, forced evictions by state authorities accelerated.

The group as mentioned is not organized, and as a result there are no organizations within Greece to advocate on their behalf. Instead the group must rely on international organizations such as the European Roma Rights Center to lobby the Greek government, and to raise awareness to the conditions the group currently finds itself under. The Romani's only demand appears to be left alone. They would like an end to police brutality against them, and they oppose the recent policy of removing them from their homes, and being resettled into designated Roma areas.

There have been few reports of Roma political action in Greece. They have not engaged in violent activity (REB00-03 = 0). There have also been few protests, although in 2003, some Roma did protest the Greek government's refusal to allow Roma from Serbia and Macedonia to enter the country (PROT00-02 = 0, PROT03 = 3).


Lexis/Nexis: US Department of State Human Rights Reports for 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1994 (all published the February following the year which they cover.)

Lexis/Nexis: All news files: 1990-2003.

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