Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, visits Romania

Court rules against Greek Roma school ‘ghetto’

In a ruling today, the European Court of Human Rights declared that school placements for Roma children must not amount to ethnic or racial segregation.

In its Chamber judgment in the case of Lavida and Others v. Greece (application no. 7973/10), which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights in conjunction with Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention (right to education).

The case concerned the education of Roma children who were restricted to attending a primary school in which the only pupils were other Roma children. The applicants are 23 Greek nationals, who are represented by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), a non-governmental organisation.

Half of the population of Sofades, a town located in Thessaly, in the western part of central Greece, is made up of persons of Roma origin, who live in a district known as the new Roma housing estate. According to the applicants, 84 families live in the new housing estate, and 300 families continue to live in an older estate.

At the relevant time, 4 primary schools existed in Sofades. One of them, primary school no. 4, had been built on the old estate occupied by the Roma community and near the new estate, which was accordingly attached to that school’s catchment area as defined in the official zoning maps. Fifteen of the applicants are children who were of compulsory school age in 2009-2010. Twelve of them were educated in school no. 4.

The court found that the continuing nature of this situation and the state’s refusal to take anti-segregation measures implied discrimination and a breach of the right to education.

Just satisfaction (Article 41)

The court held that Greece was to pay 1,000 euros (EUR) to each of the applicant families in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,000 in respect of costs and expenses.

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