On the third anniversary of the signing of the EU-Turkish migrant deal on Monday, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) called on European leaders to take action to end the harmful policy of containment on the Greek island “hotspots’”
The medical charity also urges the immediate evacuation of all vulnerable people, especially children, from these locations to suitable accommodation on the Greek mainland or in other EU member states.
MSF’s announcement charges that, for the past three years, the EU-Turkish deal has trapped thousands of men, women and children in overcrowded, unsanitary, unsafe and degrading conditions. It says the migrants have little access to basic health services, which has resulted in a deterioration of their health and well-being and caused widespread misery.
“Greece has become a dumping ground for the men, women and children that the European Union has failed to protect,” says Emmanuel Goue, MSF’s Head of Mission in Greece.
“What was once touted as a ‘refugee emergency’ has given way to inexcusable levels of human suffering across the Greek islands and on mainland Greece. The EU and Greek authorities continue to rob vulnerable people of their dignity and health, seemingly in an effort to deter others from coming. This policy is cruel, inhumane and cynical, and it needs to end,” Goue stated.
As a result of the EU-Turkey deal, some 12,000 men, women and children are currently trapped in camps on the five island ‘hotspots,’ and they are suffering in dire conditions.
Conditions have deteriorated drastically in recent months in the “Vathy” camp on Samos due to severe overcrowding, prompting MSF to send a medical team back to the island.
The camp currently hosts more than 4,112 individuals in facilities meant for just 648; thousands of people are now languishing, unprotected from the elements, in a filthy, unsafe area outside the official camp.
Those sheltering outside the camp include at least seventy-nine unaccompanied children, as well as pregnant women, elderly people and those with chronic health conditions. Some of the migrants suffer from acute mental illnesses such as psychosis, and others are survivors of torture and sexual violence.
“Three years on, the EU and the Greek government are still failing to provide dignified and humane living conditions and proper medical care to those trapped on the Greek islands,” declared Vasilis Stravaridis, the general director of MSF Greece.
He continued, “Today in Vathy, on Samos, more than half the camp’s population are living in summer tents or under plastic sheeting, surrounded by rubbish and human excrement. In the month since MSF returned to Samos, we have been treating pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions, and providing group sessions for mental health patients.
“We plan to scale up our activities so that we can offer care to more people in the coming weeks,” Stravaridis added.
MSF teams are also working on the islands of Lesvos and Chios, where migrant camps are at the bursting point, with Moria camp on Lesvos hosting 5,225 people in a space meant for 3,100. The camp called “Vial” on Chios currently has 1,361 migrants living in a facility meant for 1,014.
On the Greek mainland, thousands of migrants, who arrived after the EU-Turkey deal was implemented, are living in camps or in temporary accommodation run by the UN or non-governmental organisations. Others are currently live rough in squats or sleep on the streets.
While the overall number of arrivals has greatly decreased since 2016, more than five thousand men, women and children have arrived in Greece since just the beginning of 2019.
The vast majority of arrivals are from refugee-producing war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Democratic Republic of Congo, and more than half are women and children.