Destination Unknown member organisation Terre des Hommes Hellas is among 17 human rights and protection organisations in Greece to call on the country’s new Minister for Migration and Asylum to establish a fair and humane system of reception, protection and integration for people arriving at its borders.
“Greece can meet the needs of the asylum seekers that reach its borders seeking protection, fulfilling its legal obligations but also ending the vicious cycle it has found itself in, with a long-term strategy that takes into account both the benefits of integration of refugees and the needs of the local host communities” - 17 human rights organisations said in an open letter to the new Minister for Migration and Asylum this week.
Greece’s public health system is inaccessible to thousands of asylum seekers and migrants, including children, with serious consequences for their health and well-being. Withdrawing the right to a social security number has meant new arrivals cannot access healthcare. Overcrowding on the islands and prolonged inadequate living conditions in refugee camps across the mainland have also led to a violation of fundamental human rights and national and international law.
Terre des Hommes Hellas works with children in nine open accommodation facilities. Country Director Jezerca Tigani, says the situation is “extremely worrying for asylum seekers, especially for children who are the most vulnerable, living without adequate protection and lacking access to the most basic rights, such as adequate housing, healthcare and education.”
Terre des hommes Hellas and partners have made concrete recommendations to the new Minister to reverse this situation and expressed willingness to work together towards these. These include calls to:
- Immediately restore access to primary healthcare for all arrivals up until July 2020 by restoring access to a social security number;
- Review the existing legal framework on the asylum procedure. This should include amending provisions on the inclusion of vulnerable groups in fast-track border procedures and in expanded use of detention and provisions on lists of "safe third countries", which in no way reverse the State’s obligation to examine asylum applications on their merits, regardless of an asylum seeker’s country of origin or previous residence;
- Ensure adequate and dignified housing infrastructure;
- Take immediate action to protect all unaccompanied children in cooperation with the relevant ministries;
- Immediately and effectively ease overcrowding on the islands by transferring people to dignified accommodation;
- Remove barriers for refugees to integrate into the labour market and education system, so they can quickly be included in and contribute to local communities.
Picture: A child in a reception centre in Greece in 2016. ©Tdh/Angélique Bühlmann