Members of the European Parliament are worried by reports Greek police have started to systematically harass transgender women in Athens and Thessaloniki.

Police have made numerous arrests in recent weeks, and detained a lawyer defending the women.

Officers in Thessaloniki have been operating sweeping arrests, often with policemen behaving aggressively, under the pretext of ID verification and identifying the women as sex workers. Courts have cleared all arrested women of any charges.

Arrests started in August 2012, when the police detained 25 transgender women in one night, seemingly without explanation in Athens. The women were forced to undergo an HIV test, and were later released.

MEP Raül Romeva i Rueda, vice president of the LGBT Intergroup, said: “Too often trans people remain easy victims: they are visible, and somehow thugs—including in police uniforms—think they have a licence to harass anyone who doesn’t fit traditional gender appearances.

“Public health concerns, if there are any, must be answered with due respect for all citizens and their integrity. Learning to respect everyone regardless of their appearance is a schoolyard-level lesson, not one for the police who ought to know better!”

In another sign of growing political intolerance in Greece, the country’s far-right health minister has reintroduced a measure to allow the police to carry out forced HIV tests.