A doctor giving fist aid to an injured baby at a migrant camp in Greece | Photo: EPA/NIKOS ARVANITIDIS
A doctor giving fist aid to an injured baby at a migrant camp in Greece | Photo: EPA/NIKOS ARVANITIDIS

There is a shortage of medical staff at several Greek migrant camps. The situation has been worsened by the state's failure to appoint permanent professionals after the EU's PHILOS program – which had been supplying staff – expired.

Contracts for the PHILOS program expired at the end of 2018. Until that deal is renewed, a temporary solution has been put in place in Greece: The state sends doctors and medical staff from the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (KEELPNO) in Athens to the camps. On Monday, the government announced that this arrangement will be extended for two months. This will likely delay the transfer of migrants from the overcrowded camps on the eastern Aegean islands to the mainland. 

Poor planning? 

Local media such as EFSYN in Athens called the announcement "a last minute move" and accused the government of poor planning. 

"Unfortunately, the adverse winter weather and the fragile health of many vulnerable refugees are being met with the inability of proper, early planning and actions from the state," a report said in the paper's Monday edition.

Last week, it was reported that a shortage of doctors at three of Greece's five migrant reception centers on the eastern Aegean islands continues to create severe problems in the transfer of migrants to the mainland. 

The main issue is this: For refugees and migrants to be officially considered "vulnerable," they must be examined and get a signature from a KEELPNO-accredited doctor. KEELPNO doctors visit the islands when possible, but in most cases medical staff from the centers must travel to Athens to receive a final approval. 

Huge asylum backlog in the north 

In related developments, the regional asylum processing office in Thessaloniki is reportedly struggling to cope with their workload following a fire at its offices in late December. Staff have been moved to a temporary venue and, according to local media reports, appointments for asylum seekers are being put back by as much as two years. 

This development comes after news over the weekend that the influx of migrants into Greece from the country's northern border at Evros has tripled in the last 12 months. According to official figures released by Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas, of the 47,929 people who arrived in Greece last year, 32,115 came by sea from Turkey, while another 15,814 crossed the land border in the Evros region. Meanwhile, only 6,558 migrants left Greece in 2018. There are now over 70,000 migrants and refugees in Greece, with approximately 11,000 staying in squalid and overcrowded conditions at reception centers on five eastern Aegean islands. 

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