NEWS

Homeless, migrants, Roma without access to Covid-19 vaccination

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Just a few days before the government opens its mass vaccination program against Covid-19 to the general population, authorities are concerned about tens of thousands of people whose social characteristics could prevent them from getting the jab.

More than 50,000 people, most of whom do not have a social security number (AMKA) do not have access to the public health system and therefore cannot or do not want to be vaccinated. These includes the homeless, failed asylum seekers and Roma.

Official data show that 732 homeless people are accommodated in dormitories around Greece, while another 54 are waiting for an available bed. George Stamatis, the Labor Ministry’s General Secretary for Social Solidarity and the Elimination of Poverty, sent a request to the National Organization of Public Health (EODY) on Dec.14 for the priority vaccination of the homeless and the 213 employees who work in the structures that host them.

“The homeless are people who are suffering, most have underlying diseases. This is a vulnerable population,” Stamatis told Kathimerini. This provision applies to people who are accommodated in structures, however there is also an unknown number of homeless people who are difficult to locate.

Based on data from the Asylum Service, some 35,000-40,000 applications for asylum were rejected in 2020, but many of them remain in Greece, as they do not have the right to move to other EU countries. Some failed asylum seekers  remain in camps or apartments, but they do not want to be found because they fear deportation.

Another group is the Greek Roma, who number about 120,000 people in Greece, according to official data (EU data put the number at 230,000). “We can not expect that the sms process with work,” says Kostas Paiteris, President of the Union of Greek Roma Mediators, adding that a special plan is needed to reach the estimated 1,200-1,500 Greek Roma who are not registered anywhere.

A fourth, very different group are the holders of the so-called golden visas, the residence permits for third-country nationals who invest in Greece. Although they live in Greece, these residents do not have an AMKA and therefore no public healthcare. According to the latest data from the Migration Ministry, 14,876 people (investors and their families) renewed their residence permit in Greece in 2020.