“Greece should take urgent steps and adopt long-term policies to improve the reception and integration of migrants and to reverse the adverse effects of austerity measures on access to health care and education”, says Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, publishing the report on her visit to Greece carried out in June.
The Commissioner warns that despite the commendable efforts made by Greece’s people and authorities to welcome migrants, the reception conditions remain well below acceptable standards, especially on the islands. “The authorities have to urgently address the poor hygiene conditions, the psychological distress and the uncertainty that are threatening the health of migrants and asylum seekers on the islands. They should in particular accelerate transfers to the mainland and improve migrant reception capacities there too. Greece’s European partners should demonstrate their solidarity by supporting Greece in its efforts to improve reception conditions”, says the Commissioner.
Commissioner Mijatović is also deeply concerned about the reported poor shelter conditions and the lack of social support that most unaccompanied migrant children experience in Greece and is alarmed by the deprivation of liberty of those detained under the “protective custody” regime. “Greece’s authorities should tackle this problem with more resolve and in particular immediately stop the detention of unaccompanied migrant children. Migrant children should also have access to inclusive education, so as to increase their chances of integration.”
Noting that Greece is becoming a country of destination and is no longer merely a country of transit, Commissioner Mijatović underscores the need to invest in integration through a comprehensive and long term policy focused in particular on family reunification, long term residence and citizenship, education, vocational training, language and integration courses, and the fight against racism and discrimination against migrants.
“I am also particularly concerned at the negative impact of several austerity packages on the human rights of people in Greece” says the Commissioner. Reported shortages in staff and equipment and disruptions in the Greek healthcare system coupled with budget cuts in patients’ wages and pensions have hampered access to health care. “I urge the authorities to increase their efforts to recruit medical staff, remove obstacles to universal medical coverage, and support the mental health sector and the inclusion of persons with disabilities. In the education sector, budget cuts have led to a marked deterioration in pupils’ well-being, teachers’ working conditions and school equipment. “The authorities should lift all barriers to effective access to education, including through targeted policies to include vulnerable children, children with disabilities and Roma children”.