Majority of Greek Roma suffer from "exclusion and live in misery" and face "numerous prejudices and racism", says Vassilis Pantzos, a community leader, after police kill 16-year-old Roma youth, igniting protests.

There are an estimated 170,000 to 300,000 Roma in Greece, though figures are not exact.
There are an estimated 170,000 to 300,000 Roma in Greece, though figures are not exact. (AP Archive)

Roma in Greece face systemic racism and recurring police violence, a community leader has said after a Roma teenager was fatally wounded in a police shooting, sparking protests.

"This is a tragic incident, the fourth of its kind in a year in our community," Vassilis Pantzos, president of the Panhellenic Confederation of Roma, told the AFP news agency on Wednesday.

Early on Monday, 16-year-old Kostas Fragoulis from the Roma village of Agia Sofia near Thessaloniki was shot in the head by a police motorcyclist during a chase.

The incident has prompted sporadic protests by Roma communities around the country.

On Wednesday, Roma set roadblocks and torched tyres on a highway near Thessaloniki.

Traffic was also interrupted on the Athens-Corinth motorway after rocks were thrown onto the pavement.

In the western Athens district of Ano Liosia, a bus and a tyre shop were torched, the fire department said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

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Victim 'between life and death'

Fragoulis is in critical condition in a Thessaloniki hospital. His father told reporters he is "between life and death."

According to police, Fragoulis was in a pickup truck and had tried to ram police motorcyclists who were pursuing him after he drove away from a petrol station without paying.

The officer who shot him has been arrested and charged with attempted murder and the illegal use of his firearm.

The teenager's father Pavlos Fragoulis, who testified as part of the investigation on Wednesday, told reporters the family wanted the suspect "to be punished and incarcerated because he shot a 16-year-old boy."

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'Exclusion and misery'

There are an estimated 170,000 to 300,000 Roma in Greece, though figures are not exact.

The majority of Greek Roma suffer from "exclusion and live in misery" and face "numerous prejudices and racism", Pantzos said.

In October 2021, in western Athens, a 20-year-old Roma man was killed by police chasing down a stolen vehicle.

The seven police officers involved are being prosecuted for murder and the attempted murder of a 16-year-old who was injured in the pursuit, but they are free pending trial.

Earlier this year, a 44-year-old from the Roma community in Menidi, western Athens, was beaten to death by two men, including an off-duty police officer, for allegedly trying to steal an air conditioner, Pantzos said.

In January, a police officer in Volos, central Greece, shot at a group of Roma teenagers in a car without a driving license.

Greek authorities have also shown "inertia" in implementing EU-funded social integration plans, Pantzos said.

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Source: AFP