The leading health politician from Greece's SYRIZA party has warned that thousands of migrants and refugees risk losing free public health services when an EU-backed health program expires.
The PHILOS Emergency Health Response to Refugee Crisis program under the Greek Ministry of Health is due to end on Monday (February 28). This would leave thousands of undocumented migrants and refugees without healthcare and 670 medical professionals without a job, the opposition party SYRIZA's shadow minister for health, Andreas Xanthos, warned on Friday.
"The two-month extension granted by the government after December 31 has not been utilized in order to ensure the renewal of staff contracts and the sustainable funding of a program that has been positively evaluated and is known to have a social impact," he said.
Healthcare for migrants, refugees
He urged the government to ensure that action is taken, saying: "We call on the government, the Ministry of Health and EODY to guarantee in every way the smooth continuation of the program, the jobs and the rights of the staff and, most importantly, the equal coverage of the health needs of a population group of special vulnerability. Not only for reasons of humanity but also for reasons of public health."
He said that the "EODY's Philos program... has, since 2017, with backing from the European Commission, provided comprehensive healthcare to the migrant community."
The SYRIZA politician accused the center-right government coalition of "systematically implementing a xenophobic strategy even against the fundamental right to health [of migrants and refugees], violating the country's international obligations."
Implemented by the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention (HCDCP), PHILOS provided the health-related and psychosocial services to people living in open camps. The program was funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) of EU's DG Migration and Home Affairs.