A United Nations fact-finding team that visited Greece to investigate the toll that austerity measures are taking, said that relentless pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions have helped undermine human rights and impoverished many.
A UN analyst, Cephas Lumina, blistered what he said were unfair demands dictated by the debt-wracked nation’s rescue program imposed by the government on the orders of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).
Lumina headed a team that spent four day s in Greece and found that soaring unemployment, at a record 27.2 percent, and shrinking welfare protection have left a growing number without health insurance while pushing some 10 percent of the population below the poverty line. Other analysts put the figure at 20 percent or more.
“The available evidence indicates that these excessively rigid measures have resulted in a contraction of the economy and significant social costs for the population, including high unemployment, homelessness, poverty and inequality,” Lumina said.
A multi-bill including a series of so-called “prior actions,” including 15,000 layoffs in the civil service by the end of next year, was submitted to Parliament on April 26 ahead of a vote on April 28 and are set to make life worse for many Greeks. Lumina expressed concern about the fact that only a small fraction of the country’s 1.3 million unemployed continue to receive benefits. Greece has a one-year limit on state assistance and strict rules to qualify for it.
He urged the government and foreign creditors to strengthen the country’s welfare system, also by launching a social housing program. An estimated 20,000 people are homeless in Greece, mostly in Athens – 25-30 percent higher than 2009.
He also warned of a spike in racially motivated attacks. His warning came two days after a network of NGOs issued a report showing both the number and intensity of hate attacks increasing in 2012.