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Police chase kills yet another Roma teenager in Greece

The murder of a teenager in Greece on November 11, the third such incident this year, has once again highlighted how the Roma population continues to face discrimination and the use of deadly force against them. 

Christos Michalopoulos, 17, died during a police chase on November 11 with a bullet lodged in his clavicle after being pursued by officers, reported Al Jazeera. Following large-scale protests and demonstrations, Greece's police department said it had suspended an officer suspected of shooting Michalopoulos. 

International agencies too, condemned the shooting of the teenager, with Amnesty International calling for a “prompt, thorough, transparent and effective investigation into the latest incident as well, including an investigation into a possible discriminatory motive”.

The Al Jazeera report says during the car chase, officers pursued the car Michalopoulos was driving on a road outside of Thebes. Michalopoulos's brother and two other teenagers were passengers, and the police signalled it to stop, a warning that they say was ignored. The police report says officers chased the car until it hit a parked car and came to a standstill.

Officers say they then “approached the vehicle to conduct a high-risk check, during which the checked driver was injured after a shooting”.

According to reports in Greek media, the autopsy showed that Michalopoulos was shot at close range, while forensic evidence indicates that none of his DNA was found on the gun. This is an important detail because the Greek police officers accused in the matter maintained a narrative that the teenager attempted to snatch a gun.

The death of Michalopoulos has once again reignited the perilous conditions in which Roma people live. During the protests that followed Michalopulous's death, his friends and family repeatedly pointed out that he was a very quiet kid. “He was a very quiet kid, always smiling, he didn't bother anyone,” Chronis Kenzis, 17, a friend and relative of Michalopoulos, told Al Jazeera. “He was crazy for his car, with his music, driving around, with all of this. And he passed away unjustly. Very unjustly,” Kenzis added. 

Several protesters pointed out that the death of Michalopoulos should not be seen as an isolated incident because Romas face routine harassment and discrimination at the hands of the authorities. 

Released only a few days ago, a report titled Status of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent: The situation of Roma in Europe and beyond 2023' exposed the shocking reality of the Roma in Europe. The report highlighted how “many Roma feel that Europe is less safe than it was 20 years ago because despite economic growth and innovation, life continues to be extremely challenging for those at the bottom of the society.”

The report, which can be accessed here, shows that one in every fourth Roma feels discriminated against based on their ethnic background. 

“Approximately 17 per cent of Roma surveyed experienced at least one form of hate-motivated harassment in the last 12 months. The most prominent areas where discrimination towards Roma can be seen are education, housing, employment and health. Discrimination can also be seen in the justice system” the report had pointed out. 

Also Read: Roma people less safe than 20 years ago? GFoD report reveals shocking situation of Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent in Europe

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