Everyone, no matter their legal status, has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of themselves and their family, including access to food, medical care and necessary social services, as enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
However, 75 years after the adoption of the UDHR, the human rights of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection are systematically violated in Greece.
In Lesvos Closed Controlled Access Center (CCAC Lesvos), as in many refugee camps in Greece, we observe that people in need of international protection do not effectively have access to medical care, medication and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), and authorities continue to restrict food distribution to people outside of the asylum procedure.
The lack of access to fundamental rights is of particular concern for nationals of Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bangladesh and Pakistan, with a final negative decision on admissibility due to the application of the concept of a safe third country to Türkiye. Asylum seekers from these 5 nationalities find themselves in a legal limbo without access to legal status, rights and basic food since they don’t have their asylum application examined on the merits and they cannot return to Türkiye.
We,16 non-governmental organisations active in the protection of people on the move in Greece, express our greatest concerns for the systematic violations of the rights of people seeking international protection.
Access to rights by vulnerable people seeking protection
Under Greek Law, everyone has to pass through a medical examination and psychosocial assessment to determine their vulnerabilities  and the need for special care, which includes the provision of medical treatment or adequate accommodation. Additionally, medical examinations are decisive for asylum applications, particularly for applicants who survived violence.
However, due to a severe lack of capacity and lack of qualified staff, applicants are systematically not correctly examined, and many don’t have their vulnerabilities correctly acknowledged or acknowledged at all, especially when non-visible.Also, we observe a systemic violation of Greek Law as, in many cases, no initial mental health assessment is conducted. The wrong initial examinations open the path to numerous and time-consuming attempts for reassessment and/or appeals based on this initial misevaluation and lead to an overstrain of non-governmental medical actors.
On Lesvos, there are currently 2 doctors of the Hellenic National Public Health Organization (EODY) responsible for conducting the medical examinations in the CCAC. However, considering that there are regularly more than 100 new arrivals per week, and that these doctors are also in charge of the public healthcare provision of approximately 5200 residents, it is clear that the capacity of EODY does not meet the needs of the facility and must urgently be adapted.
Access to medical care, mental health support and psychosocial activities
Greece has an international obligation to provide access to medical care to people seeking international protection; nonetheless, this obligation is systematically being violated. In addition to the shortcomings of the health system, which affects everyone in Greece, people seeking international protection face further obstacles to access this right. It is of particular concern that EODY has a lack of staff.
In September 2023, EODY acquired the treatment of asylum seekers with chronic diseases. Nonetheless, there has been a concern about the lack of care for patients with chronic medical problems, including diabetes. Non-governmental medical organisations try to fill the gaps, but it is not always possible due to reduced resources or restrictions to access the reception facilities. Moreover, treatment for scabies is a huge concern for camp residents due to the lack of medication, ineffective coordination between EODY and non-governmental medical actors, and overcrowding conditions.
Organisations working in the camp also observe that access to medication is a concern as the pharmacy, which is managed by a non-governmental organisation, is struggling with shortages.
Finally, mental health problems are extremely frequent among camp residents. In addition to the persecution and violence that applicants have faced in their country of origin and during their journey, residents have to bear the inhumane living conditions in the camp and the severe lack of psychosocial activities and mental health support. This situation creates a perfect field for the development of mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.
Access to food
On the 17 of May 2023, Greek authorities announced that food and water would no longer be provided to the residents of CCAC of Lesvos who are no longer part of an asylum procedure, i.e. people being granted international protection or having received a final rejection on admissibility or on the merits. As a direct consequence, hundreds of people are refused access to food, without exception for vulnerable applicants such as pregnant or lactating women.
As addressed in July 2023 by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, the UN Special Rapporteur on the adequate standard of living and on the right to non-discrimination and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, this halt constitutes a clear violation of their human rights to sufficient access to food, healthcare, and clean water.
Today, people in need of international protection rely on food distributed by non-governmental organisations. However, it cannot be guaranteed that this help will be provided in the long run as these factors depend on external and often uncertain sources of income.
Moreover, due to capacity limitations, certain groups of people seeking international protection are at a higher risk of food insecurity. For example, single men outside of the asylum procedure are in a very vulnerable situation, and many of them rely on the solidarity of other asylum seekers in order to survive.
This situation is unbearable. In order to ensure access to dignity and human rights, we call on the Greek authorities and the European Commission to ensure that:
- Food is distributed to every resident of the CCAC of Lesvos, independently of their legal status.
- In line with Greek and EU legislation, every asylum seeker goes through a complete vulnerability assessment, including an adequate medical examination and a psychosocial assessment.
- A clear and effective path for reassessment is ensured.
- Every camp resident, independently of their legal status, has access to public medical services, including mental health support.
- Organisations offering medical care and psychosocial support are allowed to operate in the CCAC of Lesvos.