Size, composition and historical presence of the Roma communities
The presence of Roma or “Gypsies” – as there are still often called including by the community itself - can be traced back to the 14th century, though their Greek nationality was effectively given to them as late as in 1979. They like to be referred to as “Greek Roma”.
Roma population in Greece is not an entirely homogeneous group, but it consists of different “tribes” of Roma people. The main categories of Roma in Greece are as follows1: (a) domestic nomadic Roma (albeit an extremely limited number); (b) very long-term settled distinct Roma communities, very poor and excluded; (c) very long-term settled distinct Roma communities, a number of which are almost entirely unproblematic; (e) recent Roma migrants from new EU Member States (mainly Bulgarian and Romanian Roma); (f) completely integrated/assimilated Roma who may never even identify themselves as Romani; (g) Roma Muslims in Thrace, who benefit from the minority protections available under the peace treaties between Greece and Turkey following the Treaty of Lausanne;. In addition there are recent Roma migrants who are not EU nationals (especially from Albania, but also from Kosovo* and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) and fall within the responsibility of the migration policy.
The total share of the Roma within the total Greek population is estimated between 2-3% (source: ROM Network, 2000). The estimations regarding the magnitude of Greek Roma range from 180,000 to 365,000. An average estimation of 270,000 Greek Roma seems to be closer to reality. According to the Regional Strategies for the Social Inclusion of Roma compiled between 2013 – 2014 and the mapping based on questionnaires filled out by the Municipalities and carried out in 2015 - 2016, the population of Roma based on spatial concentrations is approximately 120,000 in 370 settlements or neighbourhoods.
There are no officially accepted estimates concerning the number of immigrant Roma present in Greece. Most of these people come from Albania, but others come from Bulgaria, Kosovo*, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Romania. Some of these persons are temporary migrants, performing in particular seasonal agricultural work in Greece, and then returning home. Others are involved in scrap metal recycling. The majority of these people have “been legally living in Greece for over a decade, although a few have obtained citizenship. Foreign Roma are outside of the scope of state programmes” when they are illegally in the country. Moreover, “the residence of these newly arrived Gypsies in Greece goes relatively unimpeded, as the public authorities tend to avoid addressing the problems of this particular group” and is within the competency of migration laws and policies.
The Roma are scattered all over the country, with greater density in the regions of northern Greece, northwest and west Peloponnesus, Epirus and Etoloakarnania, in several areas of the region of Thessaly (Larissa, Farsala, Sofades etc.) and in the greater area of Athens and west Attica (St. Barbara, Petralona, Chalandri, Rentis, Moschato, Menidi, Ano Liosia, Eleusis, Megara, Drapetsona, Spata, etc.). The greatest concentration of established Roma populations are found in regions of major urban centres, as well as rural regions that present the most employment opportunities. Most surveys carried out in recent years, show that Roma continue to live in more or less the same localities that they lived in 1999, which implies that the vast majority of Roma in Greece are sedentary. It has been estimated that they are settled to approximately 370 locations most of which are found in the periphery of the big cities all over Greece.
It is generally noticed that there is a spatial concentration of Roma in specific areas, neighbourhoods, suburbs or villages. This implies that Roma live, in most cases, in isolation, separately from the rest of the population and they do not mix with non-Roma. This consequently leads to their social disintegration and reinforce their social exclusion. It is worth mentioning that a number, although small, of localities where Roma reside, e.g. St Barbara, Aigaleo and Ilion in Attica, Saint Athanasius and other areas in the city of Serres in Central Macedonia are more successfully mixed with the non Roma population. Greek Roma community faces persistent inequalities in all aspects of life, including access to education of Roma children, the right to housing and to other basic social goods, let alone the excessive exercise of police violence.
Source: CAHROM thematic report on addressing and combating human trafficking within Roma communities, with a focus on prostitution and street children (adopted in November 2016)
 All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.
The situation of Roma women in Greece
The Roma are the largest minority in Greece, the official number of which varies according to source and purpose. Thus, when raising funds from the European Union for the improvement of the Roma situation, Greece officially has a Roma population of 300,000. Otherwise, their number is decreased to some 100-120,000, and along with it the problems that should be dealt with. The exact number of Roma in Greece is difficult to estimate since many of them are not registered, and thus officially do not exist, and no details on ethnic affiliation, language or religion have been given at censuses carried through in Greece since 1951. According to the Minority Rights Group Greece however, it is more likely that the Roma number up to 350,000 people, about half of who are tent-dwelling Roma. Many of the assimilated Roma, who have integrated into Greek society, consider themselves primarily Greek, and Roma only in the second place, and are therefore called "Greek Roma," distinguishing them from the marginalized "Roma of Greece.
The greatest concentrations of the settled Roma population are to be found in the major conurbations and in rural regions, where there are more opportunities for employment. The whole Roma population residing in distinct and identifiable locations, amounts to approximately 12,000 permanently settled families, or 50,000 individuals – in other words, there has been an increase of an 8%-10%, compared to the 1998 estimates which was approximately 43,000 individuals The major concentrations of the Roma (over 1,000 families) are found in four (4) regions (Eastern Macedonia-Thrace, Thessaly, Western Greece and Central Macedonia).
Housing is the Roma population’s main problem, with the majority living in makeshift accommodation. Housing conditions (with 50% of the population living in prefabricated homes, shacks, shanty dwellings and, in general, accommodation of a makeshift nature, in overcrowded conditions and without the basic technical and social infrastructure) are a serious obstacle to providing the Roma a decent standard of living.
For the majority of the Roma, the main source of income is dependent on occupation, which is usually of a seasonal nature, often not covered by the safeguards of the formal labour market or of the informal market. Many households depend on the seasonal labour of just one member, and on the welfare benefits they may be entitled to as large families or without means of leaving. In general, the Roma incomes are low, meaning that the majority of households live below the poverty threshold.
The majority of the Roma population (especially the older age groups) continues to be illiterate, and although school attendance is more common among the younger Roma compared to their older counterparts, their involvement in the educational process is still characterized as insufficient to strengthen and improve their vocational status and mobility. Most Roma children aged 12 and above leave school in order to find work to supplement the family income.
The health problems of the Roma population are directly linked to their low socio-economic profile, poor living and working conditions and low level of education. All these factors lead to morbidity and ill health, a lower life expectation and high rates of child mortality.
NGO data shows that many marginalised communities in Greece remained in the same situation even after a number of concerns raised by international organisations. For ex. in Spata settlement outside of Athens, Roma continue to face discrimination, remaining economically and socially vulnerable. The Muslim community in Xanthi continues to live in poor conditions with contaminated water and to bad sanitation. Many of the houses in Drosero community in Xanthi are made by temporary materials, which provide inadequate protection against the weather conditions. Roma inhabitants, in order to build their houses, took loans (legal and illegal), which are unable to repay. Houses which were constructed after 1983 do not have access to “legal” electricity and all of the inhabitants have no property titles for their houses as the neighbourhood) of Drosero is not included in the official city plan. The majority of people in Drosero are very poor and illiterate. The community is segregated from the non-Roma citizens in Xanthi. The Roma Women’s Association of Drosero “Hope” has hired social workers to bring children to school, thus increasing the number of registered children, performance of children in school and vaccinations. In November 2007, the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Karolos Papoulias, gave an award to the president of the Roma Women Association of Drosero, Ms. Souileman Sabiha as recognition for the work of the organization.
National Strategic Framework for Roma (NSFR), December 2011, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/discrimination/files/roma_greece_strategy_en.pdf
 NSFR 2011
 Written contribution on the situation of Roma community in Xanthi, Greece, Working Session 6: Tolerance and non-discrimination I, Human Dimension Implementation Meeting Warsaw, 29 September - 10 October 2008, available at: http://www.osce.org/odihr/33900?download=true
Access to justice of Roma women in Greece
Roma continue to be victims of day-to-day insults by members of the general public, and are also subject to negative stereotyping in the political discourse. In addition, the continuing segregation and marginalization that Roma communities face in Greece often go unnoticed by the wider public, even though exclusion from services is on-going. In May 2013, the European Court of Human Rights, in Lavida and Others v. Greece, ruled that the segregation of Roma children into a separate primary school in Sofades, a town in Thessaly, in central Greece, constituted discrimination and a breach of the right to education. It was the third European Court ruling on discrimination against Roma pupils in Greece. Other endemic problems are the lack of or limited access to justice, police brutality, discriminatory and racist attitudes and treatment by prosecutors, and excessive delays in dealing with cases brought before the courts by Roma. A number of cases have reached the European Court of Human Rights due to the failure of domestic remedies; in several such cases, the Court has found that ill-treatment and injury were committed by the police against Roma.
In October 2013 police raided a Romani settlement in Farsala, and determined through DNA testing that a girl living with a Roma couple was not the couple’s biological child nor had she been formally adopted. Police reportedly uncovered three similar cases, one involving a Greek non-Roma couple that allegedly bought a child from a Roma woman. Judicial authorities initiated an investigation on belated birth registrations.
Roma in Greece have very little to no knowledge about human rights institutions or the court system in Greece. They do not usually file complaints with the NHRIs and access the justice system mainly as offenders. Initiatives on legal aid for Roma have been implemented 10-15 years ago by the bar association in Athens. Roma are afraid to file complaints with the police, since often they are victims of police abuse or subject to forced evictions. According to the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), authorities did not implement the UN Human Rights Committee’s requirement for the state to provide compensation to victims in the case of Roma abused by police officers or evicted illegally. Press reports claim that police and prosecutors often conduct raids and searches of Roma and immigrant neighborhoods without authorization in search of criminal suspects, drugs, and weapons.
 2013 State Department report
 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013, United States Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, available at: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/220496.pdf
Communities: Elefsina, Aspropyrgos, Halandri (Athens); Dendropotamos, Peraia (Thessaloniki); Drosero, Kimmeria (Xanthi)
- Dr Christos ILIADIS
- Mr Leftheris KONSTANTINIDIS
- Mr Georgios TSIAKALOS
- Mr Nikolaos MONDRINOS
- Ms Alexandra KARAGIANNI
- Mr Minas DEMERTZIS
- Mr Ioannis PATZANAKIDIS
- Ms Christina KOKKONI
- Mr Ioannis CHRISTOU
- Ms Giannoula MAGGA
- Ms Songkoul RAMADAN OGLOU
- Ms Maria TZAMPAZI