Greece must urgently adopt long-term measures to improve the reception and integration of migrants, as well as to contain the negative effect of austerity measures on access to their health care and education, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic said Tuesday. Mijatovic was speaking as a report was released on her visit to Greece in June. The commissioner said that despite efforts made by the authorities as well as the people to welcome migrants, reception conditions remain well below acceptable standards, particularly on the Aegean islands.
'Urgently address most dire needs'
"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," said Mijatovic, while calling on Greek officials to step up transfers to the mainland, citing concerns about lack of capacity.
The commissioner also urged European Union countries to shoulder more of the burden, saying that ''Greece's European partners should demonstrate their solidarity by supporting Greece in its efforts to improve reception conditions''. Mijatovic also expressed her concern about the poor shelter conditions and the lack of social support for unaccompanied children and said that she was 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,'' she said.
Investment in integration needed
Noting that Greece is becoming a country of destination and is no longer merely a country of transit, Commissioner Mijatović underscored 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,'' the Commissioner said. "I urge the authorities to increase their efforts to recruit medical staff,'' she said, and ''remove obstacles to universal medical coverage, and the ''authorities should lift all barriers to effective access to education.''