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Children trapped in 'endless misery' at Greek refugee camps - report

Children waiting in Greek migrant camps for decisions from authorities on their asylum applications are cutting themselves, attempting suicide and using drugs to cope with “endless misery,” internatio

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Children trapped in 'endless misery' at Greek refugee camps - report

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Children waiting in Greek migrant camps for decisions from authorities on their asylum applications are cutting themselves, attempting suicide and using drugs to cope with “endless misery,” international charity Save the Children said on Thursday (March 16).

“Their mental health is rapidly deteriorating due to the conditions created as a result of this deal,” the report said, reported Reuters news agency, adding conditions in Greek camps had led to a rise in self-harm, aggression, anxiety and depression.


“One of the most shocking and appalling developments Save the Children staff have witnessed is the increase in suicide attempts and self-harm amongst children as young as nine.”

One 12-year-old boy filmed his suicide attempt after witnessing others trying to end their lives, it said.


The report marks one year since the European Union struck a deal with Turkey to stem the flow of refugees and migrants to Greek islands, and coincides with the release of figures which show that Europe’s record for annual asylum applications was nearly broken last year.

The Pew Research Center reported,

At the same time, however, the number of monthly asylum applications in Europe decreased considerably at the end of 2016, dropping from 100,000 or more applications per month for most of 2016 to about 80,000 in October, 72,000 in November and 61,000 in December.

Both Italy and Greece continue to receive new arrivals on their shores, but Italy received more than Greece in 2016, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the recently released data from Europe’s statistical agency Eurostat.


In 2015, one million refugees and migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond reached Europe, crossing over to Greek islands from Turkey. The flow has all but stopped since the EU-Ankara deal came into force on March 20, 2016.

Under the deal, anyone who crosses into Greece without documents can be deported to Turkey unless they qualify for asylum in Greece. But long asylum procedures and a huge backlog have stranded 14,000 asylum seekers on five Greek islands, double the capacity.

Human Rights Watch pointed out:

Facilities with almost twice as many people as they are meant to serve are not able to cope with the continuing arrivals of small numbers of people fleeing conflict zones such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. EU-Turkey deal traps people in abuse and denies them refuge.


The human rights charity said that it has made repeated visits to official and informal reception facilities on the Greek islands since the EU-Turkey deal came into effect, most recently to Lesbos in late February 2017:

Dozens of interviews with asylum seekers and migrants trapped on the islands show the detrimental impact of the deal on their human rights. Human Rights Watch has also found abysmal conditions in official reception facilities on the Greek mainland, but with more prospects for improving reception conditions and asylum processing procedures there compared to the islands.

All asylum seekers arriving in Europe, including children, are required to file applications and wait for their case to be reviewed. There is a backlog of more than one million asylum applications. European authorities can take months to make decisions, during which refugees usually wait in often overcrowded government-run facilities.

Save the Children described conditions in overcrowded camps as “degrading” and “detention-like”, forcing asylum-seekers to fight for basic necessities such as blankets, a dry place to sleep, food, warm water and access to healthcare.


“The living conditions have made them lose hope and made them feel like animals and objects – not exactly human, but inferior human beings,” the report quoted a staff member of Praksis, its partner organisation, as saying.

Children had lost all hope that they will leave Greece and became impatient as well as verbally and physically aggressive, it said. Others turned to drugs as a way of coping.

“The conditions are turning children from young people who are calm and full of dreams to people who want to harm property, others and themselves,” another Praksis member was quoted as saying.

“They say that they feel bad, then someone offers them a pill and promises it will make them feel better, and then it does and they start taking drugs.”