Greek authorities should release test results and other vital information about lead contamination at the Kara Tepe migrant camp on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos to protect the health of residents and workers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.
After testing soil samples in November, authorities earlier this month confirmed dangerous levels of lead in the soil in the administrative area of the facility, also known as Mavrovouni, which was built on a repurposed military firing range. They said that samples from residential areas showed lead levels below relevant standards but did not release the locations where samples were collected or the actual test results, the New York-based organization said.
HRW said that officials have yet to indicate that they will take the necessary steps to adequately assess and mitigate the risk, including comprehensive testing and measures to remove people from areas that could be contaminated.
“The Greek government knowingly built a migrant camp on a firing range and then turned a blind eye to the potential health risks for residents and workers there,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at HRW.
“After weeks of prodding, it took soil samples to test for lead contamination while denying that a risk of lead exposure existed. It did not make the results public for over seven weeks, and has yet to allow independent experts to analyze them or vow to take the necessary steps to protect residents and workers and inform them about the potential health risks,” she said.
According to a report published by HRW in December, thousands of asylum seekers, aid workers, and United Nations, Greek, and European Union employees may be at risk of lead poisoning.
The Kara Tepe facility currently houses 6,500 people.
“Greece and its EU partners have a duty to make sure that people who live and work in the Mavrovouni camp are safe,” Wille said.
“That requires transparency about the risks as well as urgent steps to mitigate them,” she said.