Health body says mi­grant cen­ters must be closed

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (KEELPNO) yes­ter­day called for the clo­sure of re­cep­tion cen­ters for mi­grants across the coun­try after its of­fi­cials car­ried out in­spec­tions on 16 cen­ters in north­ern Greece and found the con­di­tions there to pose a pub­lic health risk.

Ac­cord­ing to KEELPNO’s find­ings, which were for­warded to the min­istries of Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy, De­fense and Health, the cram­ming of hun­dreds of mi­grants into dis­used mil­i­tary bar­racks and in­dus­trial sites present a se­ries of health risks for both the mi­grants and the gen­eral pub­lic.

KEELPNO of­fi­cials vis­ited fa­cil­i­ties with health of­fi­cials from the Cen­tral Mace­do­nia re­gion be­tween July 4 and 8. In their re­ports from these vis­its, they con­cluded that the venues of­fered in­ad­e­quate ven­ti­la­tion to the hun­dreds of mi­grants re­sid­ing there with lit­tle more than a blan­ket or cur­tain sep­a­rat­ing one fam­ily from an­other. They noted in­ad­e­quate ac­cess to run­ning wa­ter, while stress­ing the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of large quan­ti­ties of trash and waste on the premises.

The re­port called for all re­cep­tion to be closed down grad­u­ally and the mi­grants to be in­ducted into lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

“The pre­vi­ous uses of these ware­houses mul­ti­ply the po­ten­tial health risks faced by refugees,” the re­port said.

It re­ferred specif­i­cally to the wa­ter at a for­mer tan­nery be­ing used as a re­cep­tion cen­ter, not­ing that it is likely to have high traces of toxic heavy met­als. The same tan­nery con­tains as­bestos in its roofs, pos­ing an­other health risk, the re­port said.

Ac­cord­ing to KEELPNO Vice Pres­i­dent and au­thor of the re­port An­dreas Benos, most of the cen­ters are also close to ar­eas that at­tract large mos­quito pop­u­la­tions, ex­pos­ing mi­grants fur­ther to dis­eases.

Benos, who is a pro­fes­sor of so­cial medicine at Thes­sa­loniki’s Aris­to­tle Univer­sity, com­mended Greek au­thor­i­ties for mak­ing an ef­fort to im­prove con­di­tions at the cen­ters, by adding chem­i­cal toi­lets for in­stance, but de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion as “a dead end.” “We be­lieve that, for rea­sons of pub­lic health, re­cep­tion cen­ters should be closed,” he said.

Not­ing that the ma­jor­ity of mi­grants are des­tined to re­main in Greece fol­low­ing the sign­ing of a deal be­tween Turkey and the Euro­pean Union ear­lier this year, he said the govern­ment’s pri­or­ity should be to in­duct them into Greek society.

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