The London-based Greece Solidarity Campaign has sent a 14-member delegation to Athens to investigate the effects of austerity measures being imposed by the government on the orders of international lenders.
On the delegation are two Labour Party MPs – David Lammy, a former culture minister, and Andy Love – trade unionists from the health, transport and firefighting services, a Greek member of Haringey council and others.
The third such delegation since last year, the focus of this trip this time is on health care. The itinerary includes visits to state hospitals, voluntary health clinics, consumer coops, to direct producer-consumer food distribution networks and to meet Greek lawmakers.
Set up in December 2011, the center, which has 150 volunteers, provides free medical assistance to the unemployed, the poor, the uninsured and those on low incomes, who are seeking its services in ever greater numbers.
For the delegation, used to the universal care offered by Britain’s National Health Service, the reality that citizens could end up without any access to free public healthcare still had the power to shock, even though it’s something they had heard throughout their tour around Athens.
“We just don’t have that in the UK. Everyone’s covered,” said Love, one of the Labour MP. “What is the measure of a civilied society? Surely that it will help people in their direct need. And that’s not happening as much as it used to as a result of not providing services to the unemployed,” he said, according to Enet.
“The number of deaths from cancer and long-term illnesses is going up. That’s very clear from the figures. But the government is not responding to that clear need to keep people alive,” he pointed out, expressing regret that he said the European Union and the Greek government have not taken into account the human cost of austerity in Greece.
“We’ve just expanded our food banks, where people can donate food for those who need something to fall back on. There are a lot of people in Britain who are not being fed properly, particularly children,” Love said. The number of people supported by food banks in the UK has grown from 2,800 in 2006 to more than 128,000 in 2012.