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Erikl

"Gypsies aus!"

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Greek Gypsies forced to stay in shadows of the Olympic spotlight

Thanassis Cambanis The Boston Globe

Saturday, August 21, 2004

ATHENS Makis Yerassimakis, a Greek Gypsy who has spent a lifetime on society's margins, thought he could join the rest of Greece and cash in on the Olympics. So last week, he took a batch of Greek flag trinkets to sell outside the opening ceremony.

.

Within minutes, he said, police officers literally kicked him into a van and jailed him overnight before confiscating his merchandise, worth about E500, or $600. Greek Gypsies say the police action is part of a concerted effort to keep them invisible while the world's spotlight shines on Athens.

.

"Why should they lock me up? At this rate, I'll have to resort to stealing," said Yerassimakis, who is 23 years old and has five children. "Is this the Olympiad, for everyone to go hungry?"

.

An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Roma - the formal name for the people colloquially known as Gypsies - live in Greece. Many are Turkish-speaking Muslims and suffer the brunt of double racism in this overwhelmingly Greek Orthodox country with historical antipathy toward its larger neighbor and former colonial master. With the expansion of the European Union to include 10 new countries, the Roma are now its largest minority.

.

Echoing a pattern described by many Gypsies who earn a living as itinerant peddlers, Yerassimakis said the police officers who arrested him told him he was to stay away from Olympic locations. He now spends his afternoons drinking beer at a pool hall in the downtrodden Athens neighborhood of Kolonos, a drug-ridden area south of the city center.

.

Nearly a dozen Gypsies interviewed in the Athens area said the police had started cracking down on them with unusual strictness about two months ago, fining Gypsies who were selling flowers and secondhand goods at their usual spots in downtown Athens and the Monastiraki flea market.

.

The country's poorest minority, most Gypsies hold Greek citizenship but live in a parallel state with almost none of the benefits that other Greeks take for granted. An estimated half are homeless. Many live in camps with no plumbing or electricity.

.

Most Gypsies eke out an existence on the economy's periphery, and those like Yerassimakis who live in the city, rather than in transient Gypsy camps, say they face enormous discrimination on the housing market.

.

There has been some progress: This summer, for example, the government adopted what amounts to a speech code, ordering the police not to refer to Roma with derogatory terms.

.

Eleftherios Oikonomou, spokesman for the public order ministry, said the police had not targeted any ethnic group, but that Roma, like all Greeks, were simply seeing the result of heightened law enforcement surrounding the Games.

.

"The law is being enforced without exceptions," he said. "And the Roma, as a group, regularly show elevated levels of illegal conduct."

.

In a report released this summer, the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, an independent monitoring group established by the Council of Europe, said the Greek government had done little to improve the lot of the Roma, despite a scathing report issued by the same group four years ago.

.

"The situation of the Roma in Greece has remained fundamentally unchanged, and that overall they face the same difficulties - including discrimination - in respect of housing, employment, education and access to public services," the report said. "It is also common for the local authorities to refuse to grant them the rights that the law guarantees to members of the Roma community to the same extent as to any other Greek citizen."

.

The gap has been further exacerbated by the Olympics, which have driven an enormous economic boom in the construction and service sectors, creating tens of thousands of temporary jobs, but apparently leaving the Roma behind and in some cases literally pushing them out.

.

About 150 Gypsies living on the site of the main Olympics complex were expelled in 2002 after living on the lot for three decades. They scattered throughout the region after the government reneged on its plan to build them housing.

.

Some live in a camp near the airport northeast of Athens. Others have ventured south of the city, to Aspropyrgos, an industrial area.

.

Families camp along a barren stretch between the highway and a strip of major factories and warehouses. Each family shares a one-room dwelling pieced together from salvaged construction materials, insulated with thick plastic from discarded advertising banners.

.

"There's no room for us anymore," said Ahmed Oglou Tunsel, 23, who lives with his wife and two children in a gutted car in a distant suburb. "The police told us they don't want the tourists to see us during the Olympics."

.

Other trends have put the squeeze on the Gypsies, too. Tunsel grew up in the Gazi neighborhood, a decrepit area behind the city's now defunct gasworks. In the last 10 years, however, an exploding bar and restaurant scene has gentrified Gazi; by 1999, Tunsel couldn't afford to rent there anymore.

.

Tunsel served in the Greek Army and considers himself a patriot. But it burns him that while around him he sees other Greeks cashing in on the Games, he and his father have been pushed deeper into poverty.

.

For several weeks, the police have kept his father, Achmet Oglou Moustafa Ghasar, 47, from selling his salvaged junk at a flea market. And Tunsel was fined E500 for driving a car that did not have license tags. He is afraid to sell flowers in Plaka, the tourist district, because of repeated police warnings.

.

"I served my country. Are we donkeys, horses, mules, that they treat us like this?" he said. "It's because of the Olympics that they won't let us work."

.

The Boston Globe

See more of the world that matters - click here for home delivery of the International Herald Tribune.

< < Back to Start of Article

ATHENS Makis Yerassimakis, a Greek Gypsy who has spent a lifetime on society's margins, thought he could join the rest of Greece and cash in on the Olympics. So last week, he took a batch of Greek flag trinkets to sell outside the opening ceremony.

.

Within minutes, he said, police officers literally kicked him into a van and jailed him overnight before confiscating his merchandise, worth about E500, or $600. Greek Gypsies say the police action is part of a concerted effort to keep them invisible while the world's spotlight shines on Athens.

.

"Why should they lock me up? At this rate, I'll have to resort to stealing," said Yerassimakis, who is 23 years old and has five children. "Is this the Olympiad, for everyone to go hungry?"

.

An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Roma - the formal name for the people colloquially known as Gypsies - live in Greece. Many are Turkish-speaking Muslims and suffer the brunt of double racism in this overwhelmingly Greek Orthodox country with historical antipathy toward its larger neighbor and former colonial master. With the expansion of the European Union to include 10 new countries, the Roma are now its largest minority.

.

Echoing a pattern described by many Gypsies who earn a living as itinerant peddlers, Yerassimakis said the police officers who arrested him told him he was to stay away from Olympic locations. He now spends his afternoons drinking beer at a pool hall in the downtrodden Athens neighborhood of Kolonos, a drug-ridden area south of the city center.

.

Nearly a dozen Gypsies interviewed in the Athens area said the police had started cracking down on them with unusual strictness about two months ago, fining Gypsies who were selling flowers and secondhand goods at their usual spots in downtown Athens and the Monastiraki flea market.

.

The country's poorest minority, most Gypsies hold Greek citizenship but live in a parallel state with almost none of the benefits that other Greeks take for granted. An estimated half are homeless. Many live in camps with no plumbing or electricity.

.

Most Gypsies eke out an existence on the economy's periphery, and those like Yerassimakis who live in the city, rather than in transient Gypsy camps, say they face enormous discrimination on the housing market.

.

There has been some progress: This summer, for example, the government adopted what amounts to a speech code, ordering the police not to refer to Roma with derogatory terms.

.

Eleftherios Oikonomou, spokesman for the public order ministry, said the police had not targeted any ethnic group, but that Roma, like all Greeks, were simply seeing the result of heightened law enforcement surrounding the Games.

.

"The law is being enforced without exceptions," he said. "And the Roma, as a group, regularly show elevated levels of illegal conduct."

.

In a report released this summer, the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, an independent monitoring group established by the Council of Europe, said the Greek government had done little to improve the lot of the Roma, despite a scathing report issued by the same group four years ago.

.

"The situation of the Roma in Greece has remained fundamentally unchanged, and that overall they face the same difficulties - including discrimination - in respect of housing, employment, education and access to public services," the report said. "It is also common for the local authorities to refuse to grant them the rights that the law guarantees to members of the Roma community to the same extent as to any other Greek citizen."

.

The gap has been further exacerbated by the Olympics, which have driven an enormous economic boom in the construction and service sectors, creating tens of thousands of temporary jobs, but apparently leaving the Roma behind and in some cases literally pushing them out.

.

About 150 Gypsies living on the site of the main Olympics complex were expelled in 2002 after living on the lot for three decades. They scattered throughout the region after the government reneged on its plan to build them housing.

.

Some live in a camp near the airport northeast of Athens. Others have ventured south of the city, to Aspropyrgos, an industrial area.

.

Families camp along a barren stretch between the highway and a strip of major factories and warehouses. Each family shares a one-room dwelling pieced together from salvaged construction materials, insulated with thick plastic from discarded advertising banners.

.

"There's no room for us anymore," said Ahmed Oglou Tunsel, 23, who lives with his wife and two children in a gutted car in a distant suburb. "The police told us they don't want the tourists to see us during the Olympics."

.

Other trends have put the squeeze on the Gypsies, too. Tunsel grew up in the Gazi neighborhood, a decrepit area behind the city's now defunct gasworks. In the last 10 years, however, an exploding bar and restaurant scene has gentrified Gazi; by 1999, Tunsel couldn't afford to rent there anymore.

.

Tunsel served in the Greek Army and considers himself a patriot. But it burns him that while around him he sees other Greeks cashing in on the Games, he and his father have been pushed deeper into poverty.

.

For several weeks, the police have kept his father, Achmet Oglou Moustafa Ghasar, 47, from selling his salvaged junk at a flea market. And Tunsel was fined E500 for driving a car that did not have license tags. He is afraid to sell flowers in Plaka, the tourist district, because of repeated police warnings.

.

"I served my country. Are we donkeys, horses, mules, that they treat us like this?" he said. "It's because of the Olympics that they won't let us work."

.

The Boston Globe

ATHENS Makis Yerassimakis, a Greek Gypsy who has spent a lifetime on society's margins, thought he could join the rest of Greece and cash in on the Olympics. So last week, he took a batch of Greek flag trinkets to sell outside the opening ceremony.

.

Within minutes, he said, police officers literally kicked him into a van and jailed him overnight before confiscating his merchandise, worth about E500, or $600. Greek Gypsies say the police action is part of a concerted effort to keep them invisible while the world's spotlight shines on Athens.

.

"Why should they lock me up? At this rate, I'll have to resort to stealing," said Yerassimakis, who is 23 years old and has five children. "Is this the Olympiad, for everyone to go hungry?"

.

An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Roma - the formal name for the people colloquially known as Gypsies - live in Greece. Many are Turkish-speaking Muslims and suffer the brunt of double racism in this overwhelmingly Greek Orthodox country with historical antipathy toward its larger neighbor and former colonial master. With the expansion of the European Union to include 10 new countries, the Roma are now its largest minority.

.

Echoing a pattern described by many Gypsies who earn a living as itinerant peddlers, Yerassimakis said the police officers who arrested him told him he was to stay away from Olympic locations. He now spends his afternoons drinking beer at a pool hall in the downtrodden Athens neighborhood of Kolonos, a drug-ridden area south of the city center.

.

Nearly a dozen Gypsies interviewed in the Athens area said the police had started cracking down on them with unusual strictness about two months ago, fining Gypsies who were selling flowers and secondhand goods at their usual spots in downtown Athens and the Monastiraki flea market.

.

The country's poorest minority, most Gypsies hold Greek citizenship but live in a parallel state with almost none of the benefits that other Greeks take for granted. An estimated half are homeless. Many live in camps with no plumbing or electricity.

.

Most Gypsies eke out an existence on the economy's periphery, and those like Yerassimakis who live in the city, rather than in transient Gypsy camps, say they face enormous discrimination on the housing market.

.

There has been some progress: This summer, for example, the government adopted what amounts to a speech code, ordering the police not to refer to Roma with derogatory terms.

.

Eleftherios Oikonomou, spokesman for the public order ministry, said the police had not targeted any ethnic group, but that Roma, like all Greeks, were simply seeing the result of heightened law enforcement surrounding the Games.

.

"The law is being enforced without exceptions," he said. "And the Roma, as a group, regularly show elevated levels of illegal conduct."

.

In a report released this summer, the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, an independent monitoring group established by the Council of Europe, said the Greek government had done little to improve the lot of the Roma, despite a scathing report issued by the same group four years ago.

.

"The situation of the Roma in Greece has remained fundamentally unchanged, and that overall they face the same difficulties - including discrimination - in respect of housing, employment, education and access to public services," the report said. "It is also common for the local authorities to refuse to grant them the rights that the law guarantees to members of the Roma community to the same extent as to any other Greek citizen."

.

The gap has been further exacerbated by the Olympics, which have driven an enormous economic boom in the construction and service sectors, creating tens of thousands of temporary jobs, but apparently leaving the Roma behind and in some cases literally pushing them out.

.

About 150 Gypsies living on the site of the main Olympics complex were expelled in 2002 after living on the lot for three decades. They scattered throughout the region after the government reneged on its plan to build them housing.

.

Some live in a camp near the airport northeast of Athens. Others have ventured south of the city, to Aspropyrgos, an industrial area.

.

Families camp along a barren stretch between the highway and a strip of major factories and warehouses. Each family shares a one-room dwelling pieced together from salvaged construction materials, insulated with thick plastic from discarded advertising banners.

.

"There's no room for us anymore," said Ahmed Oglou Tunsel, 23, who lives with his wife and two children in a gutted car in a distant suburb. "The police told us they don't want the tourists to see us during the Olympics."

.

Other trends have put the squeeze on the Gypsies, too. Tunsel grew up in the Gazi neighborhood, a decrepit area behind the city's now defunct gasworks. In the last 10 years, however, an exploding bar and restaurant scene has gentrified Gazi; by 1999, Tunsel couldn't afford to rent there anymore.

.

Tunsel served in the Greek Army and considers himself a patriot. But it burns him that while around him he sees other Greeks cashing in on the Games, he and his father have been pushed deeper into poverty.

.

For several weeks, the police have kept his father, Achmet Oglou Moustafa Ghasar, 47, from selling his salvaged junk at a flea market. And Tunsel was fined E500 for driving a car that did not have license tags. He is afraid to sell flowers in Plaka, the tourist district, because of repeated police warnings.

.

"I served my country. Are we donkeys, horses, mules, that they treat us like this?" he said. "It's because of the Olympics that they won't let us work."

.

The Boston Globe

ATHENS Makis Yerassimakis, a Greek Gypsy who has spent a lifetime on society's margins, thought he could join the rest of Greece and cash in on the Olympics. So last week, he took a batch of Greek flag trinkets to sell outside the opening ceremony.

.

Within minutes, he said, police officers literally kicked him into a van and jailed him overnight before confiscating his merchandise, worth about E500, or $600. Greek Gypsies say the police action is part of a concerted effort to keep them invisible while the world's spotlight shines on Athens.

.

"Why should they lock me up? At this rate, I'll have to resort to stealing," said Yerassimakis, who is 23 years old and has five children. "Is this the Olympiad, for everyone to go hungry?"

.

An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Roma - the formal name for the people colloquially known as Gypsies - live in Greece. Many are Turkish-speaking Muslims and suffer the brunt of double racism in this overwhelmingly Greek Orthodox country with historical antipathy toward its larger neighbor and former colonial master. With the expansion of the European Union to include 10 new countries, the Roma are now its largest minority.

.

Echoing a pattern described by many Gypsies who earn a living as itinerant peddlers, Yerassimakis said the police officers who arrested him told him he was to stay away from Olympic locations. He now spends his afternoons drinking beer at a pool hall in the downtrodden Athens neighborhood of Kolonos, a drug-ridden area south of the city center.

.

Nearly a dozen Gypsies interviewed in the Athens area said the police had started cracking down on them with unusual strictness about two months ago, fining Gypsies who were selling flowers and secondhand goods at their usual spots in downtown Athens and the Monastiraki flea market.

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Well it's not right to do that but by the same token The US or China would not allow the homeless people of their nations to solicit business if the olympics were being held there.

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heh when the olympics hit beijing there won't be any homeless people, and let me tell you, it won't be because of socially progressive social policies:P

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