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article imageMigrant camp near Athens poses public health risk: Greek mayors

By AFP     Apr 20, 2016 in World

Five mayors of Athens' coastal suburbs warned Wednesday of the "enormous" health risks posed by a nearby camp housing over 4,000 migrants and refugees.

"The conditions are out of control and present enormous risks to the public health," the mayors complained in a letter to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, in reference to the camp at Hellinikon, the site of Athens' old airport.

A total of 4,153 people, including many families, have been held there for the last month in miserable conditions.

"The number of people is much higher than the capacity of the place and there are serious hygiene problems," local mayor Dionyssis Hatzidakis told AFP.

He and his four fellow mayors from the area cited a document from Greece's disease prevention centre KEELPNO warning of the "the danger of disease contagion due to unacceptable housing conditions" at the site which they say has no more than 40 chemical toilets.

Since the migrants' favoured route through the Balkans to the rest of Europe was shut down in February, numbers have been building up in Greece, with 46,000 Syrians and other nationalities now stuck in the country.

Thousands of these have been transferred from the islands they arrived at to temporary centres such as the one at Hellinikon, until more suitable reception centres can be set up.

The five mayors also voiced their disquiet at the "tensions and daily violent incidents between the refugees or migrants," calling on the interior minister to boost police numbers in the area.

"We are launching an appeal for help to protect the public health and security of both the refugees and the local population," they said in their letter.

Their intervention came the day after 17-year-old Afghan woman living in Hellinikon with her parents died after six days in an Athens hospital.

Her death was linked to a pre-existing heart condition exacerbated by the difficult journey to Greece, the doctor who treated her was quoted as saying in the Ethnos daily.

Greek island officials on Tuesday began letting migrants leave detention centres where they have been held, as Human Rights Watch heaped criticism on a wave of EU-sanctioned expulsions to ease the crisis.

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