According to national legislation, asylum seekers are entitled free of charge to necessary health, pharmaceutical and hospital care, on condition that they have no health insurance and no financial means. Such health care includes:1
Clinical and medical examinations in public hospitals, health centres or regional medical centres;
Medication provided on prescription by a medical doctor serving in one of the institutions mentioned in point (a) and acknowledged by their director;
Hospital assistance in public hospitals, hospitalisation at a class C room.
In all cases, emergency aid shall be provided to applicants free of charge. Applicants who have special needs shall receive special medical assistance.”2
A new law adopted in 2016 provides free access to public health services for persons without social insurance and vulnerable.3 Among others, asylum seekers and members of their families are considered as persons belonging to vulnerable groups and entitled to have free access to public health system and pharmaceutical treatment.
In practice, administrative barriers have been observed in some cases with regard to access to the health care system, which mainly concern difficulties in the issuance of a Social Security Number (Αριθμός Μητρώου Κοινωνικής Ασφάλισης, ΑΜΚΑ) or the fact that staff in hospitals or health care centres are not always aware of the 2016 law.4
Moreover, it is recalled that:
“The public health care system in Greece, along with the provision of secondary health care, are affected by the financial crisis that had also repercussions on the health services provided and the function of hospitals that have insufficient drugs. The lack of adequate cultural mediators further aggravates access to public health services for refugees and migrants. In public hospitals, where cases from humanitarian health partners are referred, translation services are a major need and feedback communication mechanisms must be improved… In the Greek healthcare system, the existence of different sub-systems and organizational models, combined with a lack of clear mechanisms for coordination, creates significant difficulties in the planning and implementation of national health policy. Within this context it is challenging to coordinate humanitarian health interventions efficiently.”5
MSF underlines that “hospitals are struggling to respond to the needs of both local people and migrants, mainly due to a lack of resources. As a result, people regularly face difficulties in accessing proper healthcare, especially specialised care. Whilst they theoretically have access to the treatment in hospital for specialised issues, in reality access is difficult due to a general lack of capacity, including a lack of financial and human resources.”
Beyond the public health care system, medical services in temporary accommodation facilities in the mainland and hotspots on the islands by are also provided by non-governmental organisations.
- 1. Article 14 PD 220/2007.
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. Article 33 L 4368/2016.
- 4. Solidarity Now, ‘Issues in the issuance of AMKA’, 10 November 2016, available in Greek at: http://bit.ly/2ltg9Ql; MSF, Greece in 2016: Vulnerable People Left Behind, 20 October 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2kPfBG1.
- 5. UNHCR, Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan for Europe, December 2016, 51. See also The Guardian, ‘Patients who should live are dying: Greece’s public health meltdown’, 1 January 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2in3wW8.