EU approach to refugees and migrants in Greece a ‘total failure,’ says Medecins Sans Frontieres

EU approach to refugees and migrants in Greece a ‘total failure,’ says Medecins Sans Frontieres
Photo from Medecins Sans Frontieres.

A year after a fire reduced a migrant camp in Greece to ashes, the non-profit organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says the European Union’s approach to refugee and migrant ‘hotspots’ on the Greek islands is a ‘total failure.’

The Moria camp on the island of Lesbos was destroyed in a fire on 8 and 9 September of last year.

MSF says that fire has become a symbol of the EU’s failed approach to migration.

“One year after EU promises of a ‘fresh new start’ on migration, European and Greek leaders continue to deny basic dignity to asylum seekers and migrants searching for safety in Europe,” the organisation said in a press release.

“Meanwhile, their hideous plan to construct prison-like camps in the five North Aegean islands is moving forward.”

The international humanitarian medical NGO is of French origin but has offices around the world, including in Belgium. They’re best known for their projects in conflict zones and in countries affected by endemic diseases.

“In Greece, the future looks more dystopian than ever, as those who make it across the sea continue to live in miserable camps on the Greek islands,” said Konstantinos Psykakos, Head of Mission of MSF in Greece.

“It is a tragic irony that as the world observes the latest developments in Afghanistan, the EU and Greece are inaugurating a new prison like-centre to trap refugees on Samos island. This is the best demonstration of the cruelty of the EU’s migration policies.”

The MSF has called on the European Commission, Greece, and European States to implement policies focused on protecting and assisting refugees and asylum seekers.

They say that people on ground continue to report to MSF that they’re living in limbo, anxious about the asylum process, afraid of deportation and struggling with deteriorating mental and physical health.

“Children seeking mental health support at the MSF clinic on Lesbos often exhibit regressive behaviours such as aggression, withdrawal and secondary enuresis (bedwetting) or present delays in cognitive, emotional and social development,” MSF said.

One refugee they spoke with who has been on Lesbos for a year and a half said there was no difference between the old Moria camp and the new Kara Tepe camp where asylum seekers currently wait.

“The procedures are the same. It is the same system,” said the man, who MSF described as a survivor of torture in Syria.

“As a sick person, I feel I am going from bad to worse day by day. The European parliament, the European Union, they know what’s going on in this shameful camp, but nobody can feel us.”

Another refugee, a mother from Afghanistan who has been on Lesbos for two years, told MSF that residents of the camp are “in a bad mental state.”

“Right now, I don’t know if we can get recognised as asylum seekers or if we are going to get another rejection,” she told MSF.

“Until now, my two-year-old daughter has never been to a park. We have problems with getting permission to get outside of the camp. My little girl tends to have aggressive behaviours because of what she has witnessed here. She doesn’t like to play, to laugh, to speak or play with dolls.”

MSF set up a location near the Kara Tepe camp where they vaccinate children against common childhood diseases and provide sexual and reproductive healthcare services to the women refugees.

They also continue to offer mental health care to children and adults in a clinic in Mytilene.

“As humanitarian crises unfold in several parts of the world, we continue to call on the European Commission, Greece, and European States to implement policies that are focused on protecting and assisting refugees and asylum seekers, instead of ways to deter, stop and deport those who seek safety in Europe,” MSF said in a statement.

“This starts with refraining from building centres that will trap people in prison-like settings on the Greek islands, and rather focus on humane and dignified reception policies. All facilities on the Greek islands must have, as their sole purpose, the provision of urgent assistance and facilitation of relocating newly arrived asylum seekers to safe reception structures across Europe.”

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