European Roma Rights Centre v Greece. Cited as Complaint No. 15/2003

Complaint alleging violation of right to housing of, and discrimination against, Roma in Greece; Article 16 and Preamble of European Social Charter.

Date of the Ruling: 
Dec 8 2004
European Committee on Social Rights
Type of Forum: 

This collective complaint, made by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), alleged that Roma in Greece were denied an effective right to housing.

The Committee held that the implementation of Article 16 with regard to nomadic groups, including itinerant Roma, implies that adequate stopping places should be provided. The Committee stated that, in this respect, Article 16 contains similar obligations to Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. 

Regarding the allegedly insufficient number of permanent dwellings of an acceptable quality to meet the needs of settled Roma, the Committee found that a significant number of Roma were living in conditions that failed to meet minimum standards. Therefore, the situation was in breach of the obligation to promote the right of families to adequate housing laid down in Article 16. In light of the excessive numbers of Roma living in substandard housing conditions, “even taking into account that Article 16 imposes obligations of conduct and not always of results and noting [that] the overarching aim of the Charter is to achieve social inclusion”, the Committee held that the situation violated Article 16.  

The Committee also dealt with the complainants' claim that there were an insufficient number of stopping places for Roma who choose to follow an itinerant lifestyle or who are forced to do so.  It noted that the law set out extremely strict conditions for temporary encampment and amenities and that, due to the local authorities' lack of diligence in selecting appropriate sites, as well as their reluctance to carry out the necessary works to provide the appropriate infrastructure, Roma had an insufficient supply of appropriate camping sites This situation also violated Article 16.    

The third aspect of the complaint dealt with by the Committee concerned the systematic eviction of Roma from sites or dwellings considered to be unlawfully occupied by them. The complainants alleged that these facts constituted a violation of Article 16 of the Charter or Article 16 in light of the Preamble.  The Committee stated that illegal occupation of a site or dwelling may justify the eviction of the illegal occupants. However, the criteria of illegal occupation must not be unduly wide, the eviction should take place in accordance with the applicable rules of procedure and these should be sufficiently protective of the rights of the persons concerned. The Committee considered the situation to be unsatisfactory on these grounds.  

This summary is adapted from: Nolan et al, “Leading Cases on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Summaries (Working paper 2)“ (Geneva: COHRE, 2006/0

Keywords: European Roma Rights Centre v Greece. Cited as Complaint No. 15/2003, Housing, Rights

Enforcement of the Decision and Outcomes: 

The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers (‘COM') subsequently adopted a resolution (Resolution ResChS(2005)11, 8 June 2004) [NEED LINK HERE ] in which they noted, amongst other things, the extension and revision of the housing loans programme for Greek Roma and the fact that a commission for the social integration of Greek Roma had been established. The COM therefore decided not to accede to the request for reimbursement of costs incurred by the ERRC in preparing the complaint.  The COM has since stated that it will not take any action concerning continuing evictions in light of its previous resolution and the fact that the situation in Greece will be regularly followed under the reporting system under the Charter Greece ignored the Committee's decision and persists in denying Roma their rights to adequate housing as well as evicting them or threatening them with evictions. (Source: Greek Helsinki monitor/Minority Rights Group, ‘Contribution on the point in the agenda: “Tolerance and non-discrimination: Roma”', Organization for Secuirty and Co-operation in Europe Human Dimension Implementation Meeting held in Warsaw (28 September 2005)).

Groups involved in the case: 

Information on groups and individuals involved on the case The case was brought by the European Roma Rights Centre supported by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions and the Greek Helsinki Monitor. Mr Claude Cahn Programmes Director European Roma Rights Center H-1386 Budapest 62 PO Box 906/93 Hungary Malcolm Langford, Senior Legal Officer ESC Rights Litigation Programme Centre on Housing Rights & Evictions 83 rue de Montbrillant 1202 Geneva Switzerland Tel: + 41 22 734 1028 Fax: + 41 22 733 8336 Email : webpage: Panayote Dimitras Spokesperson Greek Helsinki Monitor P.O. Box 60820 GR-15304 Glyka Nera, Greece Telephone and Fax: Tel. +30-210.347.22.59; Fax +30-210.601.87.60 e-mail: webpage:

Significance of the Case: 

This was the Committee's first decision on the merits to address housing rights violations. The Committee's linkage of social rights under the Charter with the promotion of social inclusion and its finding that States must respect difference and ensure that social arrangements are not such as would effectively lead to or reinforce social exclusion has clear implications for how the Committee may approach other cases alleging the violation of, or discrimination in relation to the enjoyment of, social rights by disadvantaged/marginalized groups.