Greek government investigate migrant deaths on Chios

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Greece’s Ministry of Immigration and Asylum has dispatched a special unit of investigators to the island of Chios following the recent deaths of two migrants who were staying at the VIAL refugee camp, it announced on Monday.

A 51-year-old Iraqi man died on Sunday evening, following closely the death of a 28-year-old Somalian father-of-five who passed away on May 3.

Both men died due to pathological causes, according to the government, which also took the opportunity to criticise earlier media reports that the Somalian man had died as a result of rodent bites.

“The administration of the VIAL reception and identification center will brief in detail a special unit from the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum, which has left for Chios, concerning the two deaths that have taken place due to pathological causes,” said the statement.

The statement added: “We would like to point out that the 28-year-old Somalian man died from respiratory failure (after intoxication), and not from mouse bites as it has been written and reported in recent days in an obvious and condemnable attempt to create controversy and exploit his death, while the 51-year-old Iraqi man died of heart failure. It was known to national health officials that he suffered from coronary heart disease.” The migration ministry also announced that it has demanded explanations from the NGO ARSIS, active on the Greek island of Chios, after a pregnant Somali woman who was in the organisation’s care gave birth outside the refugee camp of VIAL on the North East Aegean Island, while the government also announced that two recent deaths at the same camp were due to “pathological causes”.

“A somali refugee, who lived in an apartment in the city of Chios as part of the ESTIA program, gave birth this morning outside the VIAL Center in Chios; both the mother and the baby are in the hospital of Chios and are in good health,” said a government statement from the migration ministry.

“It’s noted that the NGO “ARSIS”, which has the apartment where the 25-year-old Somali woman lived under its supervision, has already been called to give explanations, as it was and is responsible for her care, but which, according to the facts, the organisation did not provide diligently.” According to the government, the 25-year-old woman was systematically monitored by the local national health service throughout her pregnancy. On April 27, 2021, doctors had informed her that the day of the birth was approaching and in case of contractions, she would have to go directly to the hospital located in the city. Her next appointment had been scheduled for May 5, 2021, but she did not attend.

On Monday morning she arrived outside of the VIAL camp by taxi, after her pains of contractions had already begun.

According to the statement, the midwives of the center came out and helped her to give birth to her sixth baby, without any complications, and she was then transported by ambulance to the hospital.
The woman had been transferred from the VIAL camp to an apartment in the city of Chios on November 24, 2020, while another 64 pregnant women have been transferred since the beginning of 2021, to ESTIA program apartments on the mainland.

In response to the government’s statement on Monday, the human rights group Chios Solidarity Initiative, accused the state of treating migrants like “human garbage”.

“This incident has reminded us of the miserable conditions refugees and migrants endure in these so-called “reception centers” on the islands which are hidden away as much as possible,” said the organisation in a media statement.

The statement added: “It reaffirms that the unacceptable conditions which prevail that do not match the reduced flows of migrants coming in. There is a complete lack of hygiene and cleanliness, the complete devaluation of public health and disease transmission. People are abandoned to their fate and we wonder how it is possible for them to be exposed to such dangers, for the state to become deaf, to say other words and for the incident to pass as almost expected and normal.”

“It turns out that the only thing the government is interested in is the creation of huge prison camps, devaluing also the local communities and neglecting the residents at the camps at the same time. Given that a merciless and dogmatic government treats people like human rubbish, while in view of the tourist season they invest so much, they have already secured the best advertisement for the traditional Greek hospitality.” “We at the Chios Solidarity Initiative have stressed many times that the conditions in the camp are tragic, and the management of the refugee issue by the government is perfectly in line with its persistent ideological policy that wants to have some people invisible, without rights and forgotten.”   

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