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Greece urged to improve rights of minorities
Athens (AP) in Cyprus Mail, Nov 19-25, 2004
Europe's top human rights body called on the Greek government yesterday to develop national legislation prohibiting acts of discrimination toward minorities in Greece, citing an increase in anti-Semitism in the country.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, which is part of the Council of Europe, said Greece has made substantial progress in promoting religious tolerance and fighting human trafficking, but stressed that more needs to be done to protect vulnerable groups.
"There remain stereotypes, prejudices and incidences of discrimination targeting members of minority groups, particularly the Roma community and minority religious groups, as well as against immigrants," the rights watchdog said in its 43-page report.
In presenting the report during a round-table discussion in Athens, ECRI members said it was of "utmost importance" that Greece create a national, independent body to monitor discrimination and cases of police misbehavior.
"We need to adopt measures to implement legislation and encourage victims to lodge claims to the police," said Professor Raluca Besteliu, and ECRI member.
The report cited an increase in anti-Semitism in Greece and encouraged the Greek government to "fight against this phenomenon" by creating a national day to commemorate the Holocaust.
The Commission also stressed that several recommendations made in its reports four years ago have yet to be implemented, including the raising of living conditions for Gypsies, or Roma, to meet EU standards.
Gypsies have not received adequate employment or educational opportunities in Greece.
Many Roma dwellings are isolated on city outskirts and often do not have electricity or running water.
"The location of Roma camps makes it hard for Roma children to get to school," said Besteliu. "Roma children encounter discrimination from teachers and parents or other children."
The 150,000 Gypsies in Greece complain they face scorn just as they have in the rest of Europe.
In the months ahead of the Athens Olympics, some Roma were forced out to make way for such projects as
the parking lot at the main Olympic stadium and part of the land used for the Olypmpic Village. Government
officials said the Roma camps are "temporary" ways of dealing with the problem and the current framework
is being revised
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