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The centres for immigrants are crowded and have no sewerage

01 April 2014 / 19:04:32  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Two years after the start of the "Xenios Diaz" operation of the Greek police, no one knows the exact number of immigrants in police stations, extradition centres on the Aegean islands and along the land borders, and in the so-called detention centres.

"In fact these are detention centres where the majority of the migrants stay longer than the statutory 18-month period of the pre-trial detention measure," said Apostolos Veizis, head of the mission of Doctors without Borders at the centres. The organization presented to the media the results of its recent work in the centres.

"We examined over 10,000 immigrants who are in the centres. Our involvement includes medical care, psychological support and the provision of necessities such as hygiene products," he added, pointing out that in 2013 and 2014 the Greek state took care of the immigrants in centres only for two months.

"The people there have no medical care in fact and they are suffering from various diseases that are due to, or exacerbated by, the fact that they are detained in areas with extremely poor hygiene and are literally crammed in a very small area." According to Veizis, 70% of the health problems of the immigrants in the centres are associated with the respiratory and loco motor systems and are of dermatological nature.

"10% of the cases are related to dental problems. We all know what toothache means and these people do not have access to treatment. I would like to mention a case of an immigrant from Sudan who informed the police guards several times that he had a toothache but nobody paid attention to this. They took him to the dentist only when he removed the tooth alone and consequently suffered from a massive haemorrhage." According to Veizis, in the centres, there are diabetics, asthmatics, epileptics, even people who have had a stroke but none of them obtains medical assistance.

"The biggest problem is that no medical examinations are being carried out in the centres to determine the condition of the people. If they were, a lot of situations would have been avoided," he said, adding that there are even people suffering from tuberculosis who, after their capture by the police, do not have access to any treatment. "In addition to the fact that this is not good for them themselves they are thus threatening the health of the people around them as well as of those working in the centres."

Doctors without Borders worked mostly in the immigrant centres in Northern Greece. They presented, in videos and many pictures, the very poor conditions and overcrowded cells in them. After a stay of several months in these conditions, the majority of the people start having mental problems.

The woman in charge of migration issues at Doctors without Borders Joanna Kotsioni pointed out that the majority of the detained immigrants are unaccompanied children, refugees, who are entitled to international protection, as well as immigrants from countries such as Somalia and Eritrea whose detention there is pointless, as they are not subject to extradition because of the situation there.

"Moreover, 36% of the patients who requested psychological support said they had been victims of harassment in the country of origin, during their journey or in Greece, before being caught." She said that in February and March 2013 the team of the organization had counted 9 cases of suicide attempts. "These are not specific statistics but simply cases which we found out about while we were there and we believe they are indicative."

It is worth noting that the immigrants in the centres have no medical records, so Doctors without Borders give them a "health passport" that contains a description of their condition. "The health records issued by the hospitals when they are able to visit them for treatment, often fail to reach them, as by the time the hospitals send the health records the immigrants have already been extradited," said Veizis. During the intervention of Doctors without Borders in the centres, 345 immigrants with serious diseases were transferred for treatment to hospitals in Alexandroupolis and Komotini.

In turn, head of the Greek branch of the organization Marietta Provopoulou urged the Greek authorities to cease conducting mass detentions, especially when the immigrants are actually refugees who are protected by international law or minors.

"The work of Doctors without Borders in the centres stopped three days ago after we were informed that the government is taking measures to provide medical care for the people in the centres. It has announced a competition for doctors and social workers. However, if there is no change in the medical care of immigrants, the organization will return there to help again," she said.

Tags: SocietyDetention centresDoctors without BordersConditionsMedcial careExtradition
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