Migrants at the Moria refugees camp on Lesbos Island, Greece | Photo/Archive-EPA
Migrants at the Moria refugees camp on Lesbos Island, Greece | Photo/Archive-EPA

The UNHCR has received several hundred reports of sexual and gender-based violence of migrants and refugees, with many occurring after arrival in Greece. The refugee agency has urged Greece to reduce overcrowding in migrant centers and increase security.

Refugees in reception centers on Greek islands must deal with a high risk of sexual violence, UNHCR said on Friday. The UN refugee agency expressed serious concern over the information it had received from asylum seekers about harassment and sexual abuse suffered in overcrowded reception centers on the Greek islands. 

UNHCR said that it had received information from 622 survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and that at least 28 percent of the cases occurred after the victims' arrival in Greece. The real number is likely to be much higher, the UN agency said. Many female asylum seekers told the UNHCR that they had been subjected to inappropriate behavior, harassment and attacks. The situation is of especial concern in the Moria center on the island of Lesbos and the main problems are overcrowding and a lack of security, according to a UN spokesman. 

The UNCHR has urged the Athens government to reduce overcrowding and improve the currently dire living conditions in the centers. While underscoring that the authorities have made steps to deal with the situation recently, the UN is calling on Greece to adopt further measures to protect people in the camps, with special care taken towards women and children. Building separate shelters for men and women to prevent women from having to share space with men they do not know or separating toilets by gender are among the suggested measures. 

One woman in the Moria camp said that she had not taken a shower for over two months out of fear of being subjected to sexual violence. The UN agency added that more security staff are needed at the center, as well as medical, psychosocial and cultural mediation personnel.

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