The Greek government will move 2,000 refugees from a camp on the island of Lesbos to the mainland following outrage from aid groups over the camp’s squalor and regular suicide attempts among its young inhabitants.
The move from the Moria camp will happen by the end of the month, Reuters reported on Wednesday. With occupancy at the camp at about 9,000 people, almost three times what it can accommodate, refugees have been living amid garbage and mud. Each toilet has to accommodate 70 people, and physical violence is reportedly common.
“We are always ready to escape, 24 hours a day we have our children ready,” Sara Khan, an Afghan refugee, told the BBC last month. “The violence means our little ones don’t get to sleep.”
Doctors Without Borders, also called Médecins Sans Frontières, called for an emergency evacuation to other European countries on Monday as the situation continued to worsen. Self-harm and suicide attempts among teenagers are regular, the organization said.
In a study it conducted between February and June of this year, MSF found that nearly of a quarter of the participating children between the ages of 6 and 18 had “self-harmed, attempted suicide or had thought about committing suicide.”
“Other child patients were suffering from elective mutism, panic attacks, anxiety, aggressive outbursts and constant nightmares,” MSF said.
More than 1,500 people arrived on the island in the first two weeks of September, MSF said, adding to the burden of an already overfilled encampment. The refugees are largely fleeing violence and war in their home countries, with Syria and Iraq at the top of the list.
Greece is considered a front-line country for migrants seeking to enter Europe given its proximity to Turkey. More than 82,000 people have arrived in Greece so far in 2018, down from about 172,000 in 2017 and 363,000 the year before, according to United Nations data.
Although most have continued west to seek asylum in other European countries, about 60,000 have remained in Greece.