Human Rights Watch: Disabled Refugees Living in Greek Camps Are ‘An Afterthought’ (Video)

Shantha Rau Barriga, the disability rights director at Human Rights Watch has called out Greek authorities and NPOs alike in the mishandling of refugees with disabilities who are living at various camps throughout Greece.

“People with disabilities are being overlooked in getting basic services, even though they are among the refugees and migrants most at-risk,” Shantha said, adding, “Greek authorities, the EU, the UN, and aid organizations should make sure that people with disabilities are no longer an afterthought.”

Furthermore, according to a publishing by Human Rights Watch, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), eight international aid organizations, and one local group of aid volunteers working at the migrant reception centers in Greece have “little to no targeted programs to respond to the rights and needs of asylum seekers, refugees, and other migrants with disabilities.”

Areas of concern where the migrant centers are lacking in taking care of individuals with disabilities range from proper facilities for shelter in the overcrowded camps, access to sanitation such as being able to clean themselves regularly, medical care and access to mental healthcare.

Even with the European Union (EU) funding allotted to the Greek government and the other organizations running the camps on the ground, the basic needs of migrants with disabilities are being “overlooked,” many sources report.

“One of the problems is that inexperienced humanitarian staff are not fully trained in identifying disability. I was present when one unaccompanied child asked if he should be registered as disabled because he had severe burn injuries that affected his movement, and the person doing registration had not considered this as a disability and said, “He is not in wheelchair, he is not disabled,’” a Norwegian Refugee Council representative told Human Rights Watch.

The series of cold snaps bringing negative zero temperatures and snow to the migrant camps in Greece are also increasing concerns for refugees with disabilities in particular, who are some of the most vulnerable to extreme weather conditions.