Alison and Drew Frizzell had worked hard their whole life, eventually saving up enough cash to move from the Isle of Lewis to Greece last year.
But only five months after relocating, they say their dream move has turned into a “horrendous situation”.
The couple, along with thousands of other UK expats, have been caught up in a red tape nightmare that has left them fearing for their lives as they struggle to get the Covid jabs they would have already received had they remained in Scotland.
Unable to obtain a Greek social security number – called an AMKA – 59-year old Alison and 63-year-old Drew now face being vulnerable to Covid as tourists flock to Greece from across Europe on May 15.
The couple moved to Crete in November 2020 to beat the Brexit cut-off for residency and were in Greece for only five days before the country went into full lockdown.
‘The important thing is to get everyone vaccinated’
Despite becoming legal residents in December 2020, the couple are still without a Greek social security number due to a “system error” and currently ineligible for the Covid-19 vaccine.
“We don’t fit the criteria full a full permanent AMKA number because we are not UK pensionable age, and we don’t work in Greece, so we’re classed as temporary residents”, Mrs Frizzell said.
“On paper we’re perfect legal, but all of those things have come back to bite us because although we have a tax number and a five-year permit to stay, we cannot get an AMKA number and therefore we can’t get our vaccination.”
Mr Frizzell, who used to work in Tesco, added that the couple have also attempted fill in the required online form “several times”.
He said: “They’ve changed the form three times and, despite being given a reference number, we haven’t heard a thing back from the Greek Government. It’s horrendous.
“What we’re trying to say to them is that we have all the legal paperwork, including our passport, so why the heck do we need this number? Surely the important thing is to get everyone vaccinated?”
Mrs Frizzell, a retired care worker, said: “We are terrified. We’re sitting here with tourists coming next week and we are not vaccinated.
“I have no problem with tourists as the economy is on its knees, but if we were still on the Isle of Lewis we’d have had both vaccinations by now – my 25-year-old daughter will be vaccinated before me at this rate.”
Silence from Greek officials
The Greek Government has now also announced this week that travel in and out of other regions of Greece will “only be allowed with a negative self-test or vaccination certificate”.
Mrs Frizzell said the neither she nor her husband will be eligible for a testing kit or a vaccine appointment without a social security number – effectively locking them within their region.
The couple also say they have been met with “a wall of silence” from both the UK and Greek Governments over the matter.
Mrs Frizzell said: “So basically we’re being forced back into lockdown again and the tourists can come in and wander freely.
“The stress and the anxiety of all this has been really overwhelming – and it’s affecting thousands of people here.
“It beggars belief. We’ve no indication whatsoever of even an approximate timescale for our vaccines – the Greek Government has got this badly wrong.”
A spokeswoman for the Greek Embassy in London said: “We are sorry for the difficulties the Scottish citizens face in order to get their vaccine in Greece.
“All adults will be vaccinated free of charge in Greece. For those who do not have an AMKA there is a way to get a temporary one for the purposes of vaccination. In order to do so, they should visit a Citizen Service Centre (ΚΕP).”
The UK Foreign Office declined to address the specific situation in Greece but advised worried British nationals to seek medical advice from their “local healthcare provider”.
It is understood the Foreign Office are aware that in some cases British nationals resident in Greece without AMKA numbers are having trouble registering for vaccines online, and are in contact with the Greek authorities who are currently working to implement a solution.