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The Romani people of Greece or Romá (Greek: Ρομάνι/Ρομά) are called Arlije/Erlides (Greek: Ερλίδες), Tsiganoi (Greek: Τσιγγάνοι), Athiganoi (Αθίγγανοι), or the more derogatory term Gyftoi (Greek: Γύφτοι) (Gypsies). The number of Roma in Greece has been estimated to be up to 300,000 people. On 8 April 2019 the Greek government stated that the number of Roma people in Greece is around 110,000.
The Romani people originate from the Northern India, presumably from the northwestern Indian states Rajasthan and Punjab. Linguistic evidence has shown that roots of Romani language lie in India: the language has grammatical characteristics of Indian languages and shares with them a big part of the basic lexicon, for example, body parts or daily routines.
The history of Roma in Greece goes back to the 15th century. The name Gypsy(Gyftos=Γύφτος) sometimes used for the Romani people was first given to them by the Greeks, who supposed them to be Egyptian in origin. Due to their nomadic nature, they are not concentrated in a specific geographical area, but are dispersed all over the country. The majority of the Greek Roma are Orthodox Christians who speak the Romani language in addition to Greek. Most of the Roma who live in Western Thrace are Muslims and speak a dialect of the same language.
The Roma in Greece live scattered on the whole territory of the country, mainly in the suburbs. Notable centres of Romani life in Greece are Agia Varvara which has a very successful Romani community and Ano Liosia where conditions are poorer. Roma largely maintain their own customs and traditions. Although a large number of Roma has adopted a sedentary and urban way of living, there are still settlements in some areas. The nomads at the settlements often differentiate themselves from the rest of the population. They number 200,000 according to the Greek government. According to the National Commission for Human Rights that number is closer to 250,000 and according to the Greek Helsinki Watch group to 300,000.
As a result of neglect by the state, among other factors, the Romani communities in Greece face several problems including high rates of child labour and abuse, low school attendance, police discrimination and drug trafficking. The most serious issue is the housing problem since many Roma in Greece still live in tents, on properties they do not own, making them subject to eviction. In the past decade these issues have received wider attention and some state funding.
On two occasions, the European Committee of Social Rights found Greece in violation of the European Social Charter by its policy towards Roma in the field of housing. Furthermore, between 1998-2002, 502 Albanian Roma children disappeared from the Greek Foundation for children Agia Varvara. These cases were not investigated by the Greek authorities until the European Union forced an investigation, which only led to the recovery of 4 children. The children who were sold were presumably sold to human traffickers for sexual slavery or organ harvesting, according to a report submitted by the Greek government to the European Commission.
The majority of the Greek Roma are Orthodox Christian and have taken a Greek identity (language, names) while a small part of them, the Muslim Roma concentrated in Thrace have adopted Turkish identities.
Roma in Greece are known for the zurna and davul duos (analogous to the shawm and drum partnership common in Romani music) and Izmir-influenced koumpaneia music. Koumpaneia has long been popular among Greek Roma and Jews (the latter being some of the most popular performers before World War II).
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