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Zephyri - Isolation, lack of basic service

Kathimerini, http://www.ekathimerini.com, March 2005
by Giorgos Lialios


Some parts of Zephyri have only been included in the town plan recently and do not yet have sewage or other elementary infrastructure.

Zephyri, with its 12,000 inhabitants, is a very special case. A large percentage of the residents are Gypsies living in neighborhoods composed entirely of shacks and tents. Some parts of the municipality have only been included in the town plan fairly recently and do not even have sewage or other elementary infrastructure.

"Zephyri does present certain elements of a ghetto. Unemployment, isolation, exclusion and the lack of infrastructure create a certain situation which is self-perpetuation," sociologist and doctoral candidate at the National Technical University Yiannis Georgiou, who is of Gypsy origin, told Kathimerini.

"There are families who live in real misery. For lack of funds, most of them work as hawkers, and some beg or even deal in drugs. These special circumstances create an environment in which juvenile delinquency flourishes, not crime, let me make that clear. The Gypsies in Zephyri are obviously excluded and they act as one does when on the sidelines," said Georgiou.

A typical examply was the recent destruction of an OASA city bus, a violent reaction to a court ruling that acquitted a police officer who shot and killed a young Gypsy.

The social exclusion of the Gypsies in their area is not due to their oringin, of course. "It is not a matter of DNA, but lack of social and educational capital. For instance, there are large Gypsy populations in Aghia Varvar but they are completely integrated into the social fabric of the city," explained Georgiou. "In general, Gypsies are stigmatized so the appropriate services do not approach them. If they get by, it is because they operate on the basis of a very close network of relatives."

The situation is gradually changing, however. "In the past, many drug users used to come to the area because there was dealing going on. Now there has been a marked decrease," West Attica Police Chief Dimitris Trigazis told Kathimerini.

"But I don't believe that adequate policy is as effective as the creation of more schools or the introduction of social support measures would be," he said.

"Of course our area has serious problems, but the municipality is developing," added Zephyri Mayor Costas Papachristos, "Attiki Odos, the suburban railroad and other infrastructure, combined with the suppression of crime, have brought about significant improvements."
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