Press Release 25/11/2021
The measures of the new Joint Ministerial Decision for the acceleration of the vaccination of refugees and migrants against Covid-19 are positive but insufficient
The results from the operation of the METAdrasi special helpdesk: the acceleration of the process and the inclusion of all the categories are imperative
At the end of August METAdrasi started, on its own initiative, to operate a helpdesk (special support office), with the aim of assisting refugees and migrants living outside the camps, mostly in the cities but also in the provinces, to complete the process of vaccination against Covid-19.
In about three months, the METAdrasi helpdesk received more than 700 applications via text message and has responded to thousands of phone calls. From the total of applications two basic categories can be discerned:
The first category consists of refugees and migrants who possess the necessary documentation of legal residence but are finding it hard to obtain a vaccination appointment. Out of all of the requests, with the help of METAdrasi, 31% have already completed the vaccination procedure or at least have received the first dose. Another 10% are waiting for the activation of their temporary social security number (AMKA). A further 24% have either been directed to pharmacies for their appointments, or to Citizen Service Centres (KEP offices) to obtain their temporary AMKA number. The basic problems faced by this category of refugees and migrants are: communication difficulties because of language, large delays for the activation of the AMKA number (at least 20 days, and in some cases it is never activated at all), and the refusal of service by some pharmacies and KEP offices. In 60% of cases staff and volunteers of METAdrasi accompanied people to the KEP, in order to help them acquire their temporary AMKA number. Amongst other problems, another serious issue that the helpdesk has had to deal with in the past month is that asylum seekers and recognised refugees who already possess an operational AMKA or PAAYPA number and try to book an appointment, are not recognised by the electronic system—for unknown reasons—as being eligible for vaccination in the current period.
For this category, the new government decision – KYA (no 5160/21021) – gives solutions to an advanced degree for some of the issues, such as the problems with the KEP offices, by widening the number of institutions issuing temporary AMKA numbers and including, along with the KEP, the social services, Community Centres and the Refugee Assimilation Centres. However, the problems of communication due to language, the long delays in issuing temporary AMKA numbers and the difficulties arising from the malfunction of the emvolio.gov.gr/pamka platform remain.
The second large category includes those who do not have a legal residence permit in Greece, or those who did have a legal residence permit but have since lost it, with the result that they automatically lost their temporary or permanent AMKA number. And while the emvolio.gov.gr/pamka platform does give the possibility to present other identity documents, such as birth certificates etc, the KEP offices demand an original passport. Also, on the platform a VAT number is requested, so that the possibility of identification through different documents does not produce results. And, while a number of people do possess some identity document from their country, often in the form of a photocopy, this is not accepted everywhere. Lastly there is also a category of people without any identification documents, not even from their own country.
The common problem for this category is the impossibility of obtaining an AMKA number, due to limited acceptance by the KEP centres of identification documents. The new KYA government decision deals with these problems up to a degree, widening the list of acceptable identification documents with a new category comprising “other identification documents”. However, while providing a list of examples of further types of documents, it appears to leave the final decision of whether to accept these (in addition to the ones specifically mentioned in the KYA) in the hands of the employees/users of the KEP and the rest of the institutions responsible for issuing personal AMKA numbers.
On September 23rd, three weeks after the helpdesk started operating, METAdrasi sent a letter to the relevant ministries with the first results, the difficulties it faces, as well as proposals for the amelioration of the vaccination process of the relevant populations by category, so that the appropriate measures could be taken. Some of the proposals appeared to have been taken under consideration. The KYA is moving in the right direction; however, given the current situation, it does not make courageous decisions, nor does it incorporate good practices already in operation in other European countries which speedily managed to solve this problem.
A positive indicator is the strengthening of cooperation with and the acknowledgment of the important role that could be played by the Organisations of the Civil Society in supporting the process of vaccination of refugees and migrants. Despite this, the problem of people living in the country without any identification documents has not been solved yet. Another cause of anxiety is the creation of long delays until the new institutions authorised to issue AMKA become operational. They will need to be discovered, educated, authorised, given the necessary identification codes and connected to the system. How much time will it take before they can start issuing the desired AMKA numbers?
This is an especially serious matter and perhaps the opportunity has been lost to implement the rapid vaccination of this particular population who, we must not forget, uses public transport on a daily basis, works, and, despite the desire to be vaccinated, is “punished” by the measures taken to curtail the activities of the unvaccinated.
It is therefore of the utmost importance to set into operation the new institutions authorised to issue AMKA numbers, to inform refugees and migrants in a language they understand, to provide translation at all stages of the process, to designate a person responsible for the notification of any dysfunction of the electronic platform emvolio.gov.gr/pamka and to further simplify and automate the vaccination procedure. From the application of the KYA, it will become clear if the employees/users will choose to accept the wider list of identification documents, thus facilitating and accelerating the vaccination procedures, especially concerning the second category of people mentioned above.
Unfortunately, those who reside in the country without any identification document—an unknown number—remain unvaccinated despite their desire to be vaccinated, while the state is responsible for their personal protection which is closely related to the support of the public health system which is under great pressure.
METAdrasi will continue operating the helpdesk and is committed to supporting every positive effort towards the simplification of the vaccination process for all refugees and migrants residing in the country.