A boy washes his feet at Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos island, Greece, in September 2020 | Photo: EPA/Vangelis Papatonis
A boy washes his feet at Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos island, Greece, in September 2020 | Photo: EPA/Vangelis Papatonis

Five years ago, the migration deal between the European Union and Turkey was signed. The deal has trapped migrants and refugees on the Greek islands, exacerbating mental health issues and re-traumatizing many, says NGO Intersos.

The aid organization Intersos released a statement on Tuesday (March 16), criticizing the EU-Turkey deal, ahead of the five-year anniversary of its signing.

The deal brought about "a containment policy ... intended to control the crossing of asylum seekers from Turkey to the Aegean islands", Intersos said, which "over the years [has] done nothing but trap people in endless waiting, depriving them of basic human dignity and forcing them to relive the same traumas."

Mental health struggles

This has had "devastating effect" on the mental health of migrants and refugees on the Greek islands, the organization said.

Psychologists from Intersos have reportedly provided mental health support to women at the Kara Tepe camp in Mavrovouni, Lesbos, in recent months.

"These women have been stranded in Lesbos for months, even years. They feel trapped, hopeless, ashamed. Suicidal thoughts and self-destructive behaviours are exacerbated by the hard living conditions in the camp, which produce a strong sense of insecurity, anxiety and oppression. Death is perceived as relief, a way out of their confinement," Intersos said.

Women vulnerable to sexual abuse

The organization said that gender-based violence was common at the camps, and that many girls and women suffer sexual abuse and rape at the camps in Greece. "A basic level of security cannot be ensured, and offenders and perpetrators can easily have access to their lodgings," Intersos writes. "[The women's] mental health conditions are marked by the constant anxiety and fear that such incidents could happen again."

Intersos mentioned the stories of several of their patients in their statement.

They said that one of their patients, 22-year-old Farida, was raped at Moria camp in front of her two children -- after she had fled her country to escape abuse.

Another woman, Mariam, fled Afghanistan with her brother Masoud after their stepfather tried to abuse her, Intersos said. According to the organization, both siblings are in dire need of psychological support -- Mariam presents symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), while Masoud presents symptoms of psychosis. According to Intersos, Mariam refused further psychological treatments because her brother had not been able to receive any therapy.

EU-Turkey pact 'inhumane'

"The EU-Turkey Statement is an inhumane agreement that has brought pain, death and suffering to thousands of human lives trapped here in Greece," said Apostolos Veizis, executive director of Intersos Hellas. "This accord represents the persistent will of European governments to continue to pursue containment measures, rather than finding practicable humanitarian solutions."

Cesare Fermi, Intersos' European director, called on the European Union to "make an effort to pursue new migratory policies, focused on people's protection and integration."


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