The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) on Tuesday 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.