Refugees in Moria’s identification center on Lesvos island, Greece | Photo: EPA/Panagiotis Balaskas
Refugees in Moria’s identification center on Lesvos island, Greece | Photo: EPA/Panagiotis Balaskas

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has said that disastrous EU policies have led to thousands of vulnerable migrants being “trapped on the Greek islands in horrendous conditions.” It noted that there has been a fresh spike in arrivals recently and that children have tried to commit suicide and are engaging in self-harm.

About 24,00 men, women and children seeking protection in Europe are "trapped on the Greek islands in horrendous conditions while being deliberately neglected by Greek and European authorities," Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has said in a press release. It noted that this "harmful crisis, which is undermining the wellbeing of thousands of vulnerable people, is the result of a faulty reception system, a lack of protection mechanisms and insufficient provision of services. This demonstrates that the EU's containment and deterrence approach to managing migration has simply failed."

Crisis 'caused by policies'

For four years, "MSF has been working on several Greek islands and still today, the humanitarian and medical response is mostly left to organizations of volunteers that are replacing the responsibilities of the state," the press release continued.

"Today, once again, we have been forced to scale up our operations: hundreds of medical consultations are carried out on a daily basis on the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios and in coordination with other volunteer and non-governmental organizations. MSF is increasing the sanitation facilities for the migrant population and distributing basic relief goods on a regular basis," it added.

"This is not a new emergency: the severe overcrowding in the hotspots is a policy-driven crisis harming thousands of men, women and children every day, for years," says Tommaso Santo, MSF's head of mission in Greece. "We have seen it in the past and we continue to see it today. More than three years after locking up asylum seekers in desperate conditions on the Greek islands, should we conclude that the Greek and EU authorities are hoping to rely on this shameful reception failure as a way to deter new migrants' arrivals in the EU?," Santo asked.

Santo pointed to the recent spike in arrivals saying that temporary solutions were "not sustainable and would continue to harm people."

Cases of attempted suicide and self-harm among children

MSF noted that as "sea arrivals reach numbers not seen since 2016, MSF's paediatric mental health teams working on Lesbos saw child referrals double in July compared to previous months. In July and August, 73 children were referred to our teams: three had attempted to kill themselves and 17 were self-harming. Ten of the 73 children were under the age of six, with the youngest just two years old. More and more of these children stop playing, have nightmares, are afraid to go out of their tents and start to withdraw from life," says Katrin Brubakk, MSF's mental health activity manager on Lesbos.

"Some of them completely stop talking. With the increasing overcrowding, violence and lack of safety in the camp, the situation for children is deteriorating day by day. To prevent permanent damage, these children need to be removed from Moria camp immediately." MSF called "on the Greek government, the EU and its member states to act according to their responsibilities and put an end to this unacceptable and harmful crisis."


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