Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Greece’s New Democracy government to release test results and what it said was other vital information about lead contamination in a hastily-built refugee tent city on the island of Lesbos.
The Kara Tepe camp was thrown together after a fire destroyed the notoriously overcrowded Moria detention center on the island that held as many as 18,000 refugees and migrants.
They came on boats provided by human smugglers to get them to five Greek islands from Turkey where they had first gone fleeing war, strife and economic hardships in their homelands, especially Syria and Afghanistan.
After testing soil samples in November, the government confirmed publicly on January 23, 2021 the presence of dangerous levels of lead in the soil in the administrative area, said HRW.
The group said the report claimed samples from residential areas showed lead levels below required standards but did not release the locations where samples were collected or the actual test results.
“The government has yet to indicate that it will take the necessary steps to adequately assess and mitigate the risk, including comprehensive testing and measures to remove people from areas that could be contaminated,” said HRW.
“The Greek government knowingly built a migrant camp on a firing range and then turned a blind eye to the potential health risks for residents and workers there,” said Belkis Wille, HRW’s Senior Crisis and Conflict Researcher.
“After weeks of prodding, it took soil samples to test for lead contamination while denying that a risk of lead exposure existed. It did not make the results public for over seven weeks, and has yet to allow independent experts to analyze them or vow to take the necessary steps to protect residents and workers and inform them about the potential health risks.”
HRW in December, 2020 had released a report that it said proved that thousands of asylum seekers, aid workers, and United Nations, Greek, and European Union employees may be at risk of lead poisoning in the Lesbos camp.