Council of Europe Criticizes Greece for Treatment of Mental Health and Immigrants



Council of Europe Headquarters in Strasbourg. File photo

The Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) of the Council of Europe published a report on Tuesday which strongly criticizes Greece.

The main focus of the report is on how some of Greece’s main public mental health institutions treat their patients and how refugee and migrant camps are being run. It is well known that, due to huge number of migrant arrivals, the occupancy rates for the camps are being greatly exceeded.

The conditions in many of the migrant detention camps were found to be substandard as well.

Regarding the immigration detention camps in the country, CPT noted once again that there is a “need for a coordinated European approach to address the high number of foreign nationals arriving in Greece.”

The group pointed out the massive influx of migrants which Greece received due to its geographic position, while other EU member states refused to receive migrants, which is a violation of basic EU rules.

A group of inspectors also visited the psychiatric departments of three state-run hospitals in Athens, including Evangelismos, Gennimatas and Sotiria.

The CTP noted that they are ”critical of the lack of staff, and over-reliance on pharmaco-therapy.” The report also noted that “patients were offered few activities.”

The report also mentioned that the use of mechanical restraints was widespread in the hospitals studied as well.

The CPT watchdog group has also reportedly received complaints regarding staff abuses in a privately-run psychiatric clinic in Athens, but they refused to confirm this.

The Greek government has already promised to propose new legislation, which it hopes will significantly increase the safeguarding of patients’ rights.

In addition, the CPT also noted that its group which visited Greece received ”credible allegations” against the Greek police. According to the group, police officers have mistreated migrants by verbally and physically abusing them. There have even been alleged incidents of slapping, kicking, and punching migrants.

The watchdog group also mentioned information about ”push-back” operations conducted by the Greek police and border guards. However, the group does not state if the authorities were from FRONTEX or the Greek authorities.

In these operations, migrants who are attempting to enter the EU overland from Turkey are being pushed back to the country at the Evros river, which forms the Greek/Turkish border.

In response, the Greek authorities strongly denied the allegations for the ”push-back” operations, adding that the poor conditions of the detention camps in Evros ”were due to the increased migratory pressure at the time of the CPT’s visit.”

Greek officials also noted that a new project involving the upgrading and refurbishment of these facilities will start very soon, in order to meet the standards of the CPT.

The Council of Europe is an organization which aims to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. It is sometimes wrongly confused with the EU, of which is not an agency.