Migrants in a refugee camp near the village of Idomeni, northern Greece, in May 2016 | Photo: EPA/Amir Karimi/MSF
Migrants in a refugee camp near the village of Idomeni, northern Greece, in May 2016 | Photo: EPA/Amir Karimi/MSF

Over 11,000 refugees in Greece are at risk of being evicted from their housing and cut off from government cash assistance, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In a statement published on Monday, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said that over 11,000 recognized refugees, many of them with severe health and mental health conditions, are being threatened with eviction or have been evicted from their accommodation. They are also being cut off from cash assistance and left in the streets without access to shelter, protection or proper healthcare, the medical aid organization said.

In Greece, once someone receives international protection, they are no longer entitled to reception services for asylum seekers, including accommodation and cash assistance. Theoretically, they should have access to most of the social services that Greek nationals have. But in practice, the transition out of the asylum reception system is incredibly difficult for many. The bureaucratic hurdles to receive state support are high, and many face discrimination in the job and housing market. 

Pregnant women sleeping rough

In their statement, MSF wrote that "in June, an extremely vulnerable MSF patient died from a cardiac arrest shortly after she was threatened with eviction and subsequently left her accommodation."

"We have patients with serious medical conditions who are being abandoned, while women in an advanced stage of pregnancy are sleeping on Victoria Square in central Athens," said Marine Berthet, MSF's medical coordinator in Greece. "In the middle of a global pandemic, governments should be protecting and shielding people at high risk of COVID-19, not throwing them out onto the streets and leaving them without protection, shelter or access to basic healthcare."

"In response to the hundreds of refugees sleeping on the streets of Victoria Square in Athens, we are referring those most in need of medical care to our daycare center in Athens," MSF said in the statement. "We urgently call on the Greek government, the EU and all organisations involved in providing shelter to find immediate accommodation solutions for all those refugees currently sleeping on the streets of Athens, and to halt evictions of refugees until all administrative barriers to integration and access to healthcare have been lifted."

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