European Court confirms lack of adequate medical treatment for asylum seekers on Samos

On 16 October 2020, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) ordered the Greek government to provide the necessary medical examination and treatment for eight asylum-seekers suffering from Hepatitis B.

The request for interim measures was submitted by the Refugee Law Clinic Berlin (RLCB) on 12 October 2020, as none of the applicants is currently receiving adequate medical treatment. Due to the fact that Samos lacks a gastroenterologist-hepatologist, the applicants must be transferred to the mainland. These eight cases are examples of the thousands of asylum-seekers who suffer from systematic lack of healthcare on the Greek islands.The eight applicants have all informed the authorities about their Hepatitis B infection and have been waiting for months to receive appropriate medical treatment. None of them has been told if and when this might happen. In the meantime, they suffer from pain, exhaustion, and vomiting. When left untreated, Hepatitis B can cause liver cirrhosis, which in turn can significantly reduce life expectancy.

It is not only their own health that is at stake, but that of the other inhabitants of the camp. Hepatitis B is a highly contagious disease and infections are difficult to avoid under these living conditions.

RLCB provides legal information on asylum procedures on Samos since 2018, and submits in this context applications for interim measures to the ECHR for the most vulnerable asylum-seekers.

“These eight cases are only individual examples of what is rampant on Samos. We have seen so many asylum-seekers suffering from various diseases, pregnant women, and people who might be especially vulnerable to COVID-19 – the vast majority of them receive no medical treatment from any official actor,” says Mathilde Albert, coordinator of the RLCB on Samos. As the general hospital is extremely overwhelmed, in many cases the only medical assistance comes from NGOs such as Med’EqualiTeam or Medecins Sans Frontières. In addition to the already dire living conditions, there are now cases of COVID-19 in the camp. The virus is expected to spread rapidly as quarantine capacities are already exceeded. The camp is currently under lockdown. In light of the complicated access to support structures, RLCB has set up a homepage where asylum-seekers can request legal aid: www.ihaverights.eu

The refugee camp on Samos is one of the five hotspots on the Aegean Islands, where asylum-seekers who are attempting to reach Europe. The camp currently hosts 4,296 people, despite the fact it was built to accommodate only 648. The majority of the asylum-seekers are living in makeshift shacks in the area dubbed “the jungle” surrounding the official campgrounds. The living conditions both in the camp and in the jungle are abysmal – there are not enough toilets or showers, no systematic waste disposal, inadequate food supplies, and nearly no access to health care. These circumstances already pose a health risk, and especially do so during a pandemic.

The Court granted our request for interim measures and indicated to the Government of Greece to guarantee to the applicants a medical assessment by a gastroenterologist-hepatologist, ensure their medical treatment and guarantee to the applicants living conditions compatible with Article 3 of the Convention with regard to their state of health.

View full decision here