Roma in Greece
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Agia Varvara, Athens, Ano Liosia, Thessaly[1]
Romani, Greek, Romano-Greek
Greek Orthodox, Sunni Islam

The Romani people of Greece, or Romá (Greek: Ρομάνι/Ρομά), are called Tsinganoi (Greek: Τσιγγάνοι), Athinganoi (Αθίγγανοι), or the more derogatory term Gyftoi (Greek: Γύφτοι) (Gypsies). On 8 April 2019, the Greek government stated that the number of Greek Roma citizens in Greece is around 110,000.[2] Other estimates have placed the number of Romani people resident in Greece as high as 350,000.[3]



The Romani people originate from Northern India,[4][5][6][7][8][9] presumably from the northwestern Indian states Rajasthan[8][9] and Punjab.[8] 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.[10]

Arrival into the Balkans

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.[11] 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 Hellenized and 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.[12]


The Roma in Greece live scattered on the whole territory of the country, mainly in the suburbs. Notable centres of Romani life in Athens 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.[12]

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.[12]

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.[13][14] Furthermore, between 1998-2002, 502 Albanian Roma children disappeared from the Greek Foundation for children Agia Varvara.[15] 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.[16][17]


The majority of the Greek Roma are Orthodox Christian like the groups Medvedara (Bear-leader), Katsiveli, Fitsiria, Mandopolini etc., and have taken a Greek identity (language, names) while a small part of them, the Erli/Erlides (Greek: Ερλίδες), and Tourkogyftos are Muslim Roma concentrated in Western Thrace have adopted Turkish identities.[18]

Music and dance

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).

Notable Roma from Greece

Kostas Hatzis

Public opinion

The 2019 Pew Research poll found that 72% of Greeks held unfavorable views of Roma.[19]

See also


  1. ^ Anastasios Papapostolou (22 October 2013). "Roma in Greece: Tough Life, Segregation and… Crimes".
  2. ^ "Premier Tsipras Hosts Roma Delegation for International Romani Day". greekreporter. LV: Nick Kampouris. 9 April 2019.
  3. ^ "Greece NGO". Greek Helsinki Monitor. LV: Minelres.
  4. ^ Hancock, Ian F. (2005) [2002]. We are the Romani People. Univ of Hertfordshire Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-902806-19-8: ‘While a nine century removal from India has diluted Indian biological connection to the extent that for some Romani groups, it may be hardly representative today, Sarren (1976:72) concluded that we still remain together, genetically, Asian rather than European’((cite book)): CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  5. ^ Mendizabal, Isabel (6 December 2012). "Reconstructing the Population History of European Romani from Genome-wide Data". Current Biology. 22 (24): 2342–2349. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.10.039. PMID 23219723.
  6. ^ Sindya N. Bhanoo (11 December 2012). "Genomic Study Traces Roma to Northern India". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Current Biology.
  8. ^ a b c K. Meira Goldberg; Ninotchka Devorah Bennahum; Michelle Heffner Hayes (28 September 2015). Flamenco on the Global Stage: Historical, Critical and Theoretical Perspectives. p. 50. ISBN 9780786494705. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  9. ^ a b Simon Broughton; Mark Ellingham; Richard Trillo (1999). World Music: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Rough Guides. p. 147. ISBN 9781858286358. Retrieved 21 May 2016. Roma Rajastan Penjab.
  10. ^ Šebková, Hana; Žlnayová, Edita (1998), Nástin mluvnice slovenské romštiny (pro pedagogické účely) (PDF), Ústí nad Labem: Pedagogická fakulta Univerzity J. E. Purkyně v Ústí nad Labem, p. 4, ISBN 978-80-7044-205-0, archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016
  11. ^ "Roma in Greece: Tough Life, Segregation and... Crimes -". 22 October 2013.
  12. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 September 2007. Retrieved 19 May 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "La Charte sociale européenne" (PDF). Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  14. ^ "La Charte sociale européenne" (PDF). Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  15. ^ Mariam, Nicky (29 August 2013). "Agia Varvara Children Still Missing |". Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  16. ^ "Hopiema" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  17. ^ "Children, Racism and the Greek State |". 19 October 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  18. ^ "Roma – Sub Ethnic Groups [Rombase]".
  19. ^ "European Public Opinion Three Decades After the Fall of Communism — 6. Minority groups". Pew Research Center. 14 October 2019.