Roma families in Athens watch as authorities start a partial demolition of their makeshift camp, one day after news of the demolition prompted riots.
© Scanpix

The bulldozer begins its demolition. Authorities in Greece are tearing down unoccupied homes in a Roma camp in an Athens suburb.

The Roma have squatted on this private land for decades but now... they watch with resignation.

"It is a shame that the government is solving a 45-year old problem in this way," says Roma leader Stelios Kalamiotis. "There are 54 children in the camp that go to school. Those children should not be seeing this sort of thing."

The camp, for all its haphazardness, sits amid prime Athens real estate.

The government wants to relocate the Roma to organized settlement near the town of Megara about an hour away, but the Roma say that's too far and too isolated.

"We grew up here, and now they want to kick us out of here and send us to Megara, no one wants to go there, the children go to school here, what will they do there? Who will help us there?" asks Tassos, a resident of the Roma camp.

When the demolition was announced, the Roma reacted with fury, rioting and blocking traffic on a major avenue for hours.

Authorities finally agreed to delay the full demolition for now, saying only the uninhabited homes will be taken down.

But the Roma say they are sure there are more battles still to come.

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