Interview Insights: Addressing Health System Barriers for Refugees and Migrants in Greece

An Interview with Eugenie Gargalestou, Teacher at the Multicultural School of Athens. The school is one of the local pilot sites in Greece, working closely with RIVER-EU consortium partner Prolepsis, an organisation leading project work on WP4 “Implementation and Evaluation of tailored interventions”.

In a written interview for RIVER-EU, Eugenie Gargalestou highlighted the significant hurdles faced by refugees and migrants when accessing healthcare services in Greece. These challenges encompass a multitude of factors, including the lack of medical and vaccination records, linguistic barriers, and bureaucratic complexities. These challenges pose substantial obstacles to their access to essential medical care and vaccinations, critically impacting the health and well-being of these vulnerable populations.

RIVER-EU: What are your thoughts on vaccination?

Eugenie: “Vaccines are the greatest medical discovery of the 20th century. With the introduction of vaccines, diseases that caused epidemics were decreased. Some diseases have even been eradicated or nearly eradicated, contributing significantly to increasing life expectancy around the world.”

RIVER-EU: What are your concerns surrounding vaccination services in Greece and ways do you think we could improve them?

Eugenie: “There is distrust in the health system and an abundance of wrong or misleading information about vaccination. The health system experienced significant budget reductions following the Greek debt and economic crises which has affected trust and service provision. Providing consistent and clear information on the safety of vaccines, the risks that children and young people run from vaccine-preventable diseases, and actively reducing misinformation would help improve vaccination services. The Greek government, health services and media could support all of the above with continuous campaigns.”

RIVER-EU: How could we establish stronger links between healthcare services and the migrant community?

Eugenie: “In my opinion, key factors that would establish stronger links between health services in Greece and the migrant community would be:

  • Improving information about and familiarity with the Greek health system
  • Offering medical insurance
  • Providing translators to facilitate exchange.

These would improve the integration and inclusion of the migrant community.”

RIVER-EU: What is the role of projects like RIVER-EU?

Eugenie: “Projects like RIVER-EU play an important role in helping establish stronger links with the migrant community as they help migrants feel that they are more supported with essential services and education.

The training and education in health that is provided by RIVER-EU is very important for all those who work with children, and particularly refugee and migrant children, in order for them to feel safe and to achieve their smooth integration into Greek society. It is very fulfilling to work on this project.”

Eugenie is just one of our many ‘champions’ helping make RIVER-EU a reality in our pilot sites. Continue to visit the RIVER-EU website for more interview insights from project partners and supporters and to learn more about actionable steps we can take to enhance vaccine uptake for all.