Asylum seekers without adequate resources are entitled to free medical care in public medical institutions covering at minimum, emergency health care and essential treatment of illnesses and serious mental disorders.1 Welfare beneficiaries and residents in the reception centre are explicitly eligible for free medical care and in that respect they have access to free health care. The level of resources needed to receive free medical care in the case of asylum seekers not receiving welfare assistance is not specified.
Free access to health care is granted upon the presentation of a “Type A” Hospital Card, issued by the Ministry of Health. This document is provided to all residents of the Kofinou Reception Centre, while for persons residing in the community, a welfare dependency report indicating lack of resources is required by the Ministry of Health. This dependency report must be submitted by the individual applying for the hospital card. However, evidence suggests that lack of information and coordination between Welfare Services and Ministry of Health has deprived persons from securing free health care as they are not aware of such right.2
As currently many asylum seekers do not receive welfare assistance, difficulties in securing a hospital card have been reported. However, in practice, the vast majority of asylum seekers do receive a hospital card, which grants them access to public health institutions with some charges also applying to nationals since 2013. More specifically, applicants are required to pay €3-6 in order to visit a doctor and an additional €0.50 for each medicine / test prescribed, with a maximum charge of €10. Emergency care remains free for holders of medical cards, otherwise it costs €10.
Asylum seekers who need to receive essential treatment which is not available in the RoC are not included in the relevant scheme introduced by the Ministry of Health transposing the Directive on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare. In practice, however, the Ministry has covered the costs, upon approval of the Minister of Health, for several cases of children asylum seekers to receive medical treatment outside the country.
In a number of cases, asylum seekers reported to Future Worlds Center that they faced racist behaviour from medical staff, often in relation to their poor Greek language skills and the reluctance of the latter to communicate in English.
Specialised health care
Asylum seekers without adequate resources who have special reception needs are also entitled to free of charge necessary medical or other care, including appropriate psychiatric services.3 The amended Refugee Law incorporates the provision of the recast Reception Conditions Directive in relation to the identification and address of special reception needs, including victims of torture However, in practice, due to the recent amendment as well as lack of specific guidelines or procedures, the provisions are not implemented yet. There are no specialised facilities or services, except for the ones available to the general population within the public health care system. Currently, there is only one NGO, the Future Worlds Center, offering specialised social and psychological support to victims of torture, operating through the funds of United Nations Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture (UNVFVT).4
- 1. Article 9ΙΓ(1)(a) Refugee Law.
- 2. Ombudsman, Report on access of an asylum seeker to the social welfare system and medical services, 1553/2013, December 2016, available in Greek at: http://bit.ly/2k3pfzv.
- 3. Article 9ΙΓ(1)(b) Refugee Law.
- 4. For more information see Future Worlds Center, UNVFVT, available at: http://bit.ly/1HQVYfJ.