ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece is falling behind on its human rights obligations, a senior U.N. investigator warned Friday, and he strongly criticized the "excessively rigid" demands of the crisis-hit country's bailout program.
U.N. independent expert Cephas Lumina said a surge in unemployment and axed benefits had left a growing number of Greeks without health insurance and about 10 percent of the population living in "extreme poverty."
He said about 470,000 immigrants without proper residence permits were among the most vulnerable to labor exploitation and other abuses.
He urged Greece's bailout lenders — eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund — to include human rights considerations in Greece's austerity programs.
"(Human) rights ... are under threat or being undermined by harsh pro-cyclical policies — austerity labor reforms, liberalization and privatizations — that the government has been constrained to implement since May 2010," Lumina told reporters in Athens.
Lumina spoke at the end of a four-day visit to Athens that included meetings with government and opposition officials and aid groups, as well as representatives of Greece's emergency creditors.
Greece has been relying on international rescue loans for the past three years, with resulting austerity measures pushing unemployment up to more than 27 percent, with more than 1.3 million people out of work.
"The ostensible aim of the measures is to reduce the fiscal deficit, reduce labor costs and make the economy more competitive," Lumina said. "However, 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."