Greece must immediately ensure that asylum-seekers, unaccompanied children and children of irregular migrants have free access to the public health system

Report
from Amnesty International
Published on 14 Oct 2019 View Original

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC STATEMENT

Amnesty International is profoundly concerned about the continuing failure of the Greek authorities to ensure that asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children can access free healthcare in the public health system, as provided by Law 4368/2016. Furthermore, children born in Greece by parents irregularly residing in the country are also excluded from being able to access the public health system.

Article 33 of Law 4368/20161 provides free access to medical and pharmaceutical services provided by the Greek Health System to the uninsured and to members of “vulnerable social groups”. This includes refugees, asylum-seekers (from the moment they express their will to apply for asylum) and minors irrespective of their legal status, including unaccompanied children and children without legal residence in Greece. One of the main aims behind this legislation was to ensure free access to health services to an estimated 2,5 million people who lost their social insurance during the severe economic crisis and to “vulnerable groups”. According to Article 33 para. 3 of Law 4368/2016 and Joint Ministerial Decision Α3(γ)/ΓΠ/οικ.25132/4-4-2016, individuals falling under the scope of Article 33 must have a Social Security Number (“AMKA”) to be able to access free healthcare in the public health system. This number is issued by Citizen’s Service Centres around Greece (“KEP”) or the offices of the Agency for Social Security (“EFKA”). For those asylum-seekers and other members of “vulnerable groups” that do not fulfil the requirements to be granted an AMKA or do not have one, Article 3 of the Joint Ministerial Decision of 2016 provided for the issuance of a special Foreigner’s Health Care Card (“K.Y.P.A”) granting access to free healthcare in the public health system. A circular issued in May 2016, clarified that the granting of such cards would be up to public hospital services, but the process has until now remained inactive.2 Despite the Law 4368/2016, NGOs working with asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children in Greece told Amnesty International of the barriers many asylum-seekers faced in accessing the public health system because they were unable to get an AMKA. For example, Amnesty International was told about cases where people were refused an AMKA because officials said their asylum-seeker’s card was not translated in Greek. The administration has also failed to activate the K.Y.P.A. system resulting in a situation where only the granting of AMKA can guarantee free access to the public health system.

The administrative barriers that many asylum-seekers and unaccompanied children face in getting an AMKA number have significantly worsened since 11 July 2019, when the Ministry of Labour withdrew the circular that regulated how AMKA was to be granted to non-Greek nationals. Since this circular has been withdrawn, there has been no procedure in place to grant AMKA numbers to asylum seekers and unaccompanied children.