Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Greek government to end the “containment” of asylum seekers in island camps.
Writing on the anniversary of a March 2016 European Union-Turkey deal to stem the flow of refugees and migrants to the continent, Greece researcher at HRW Eva Cosse, warned that thousands of people stranded on the country’s eastern Aegean islands were living in conditions of violence, fear, cold weather and humiliation.
“Women, men, and children live crammed together. There isn’t enough food, water, shelter, or health care. The state of the few toilets and showers are abysmal, and particularly difficult for people with disabilities to use. Children don’t go to school and adults live out the days with nothing to do. Security has increasingly deteriorated, putting people in danger,” Cosse said.
Under the 2016 agreement, those who arrive on Greece’s islands are forbidden from traveling to mainland until their asylum applications are processed, and those who do not qualify are deported.
“On this grim anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal, Greece and its EU partners should work to restore the dignity and humanity of people seeking protection, and start by scrapping the containment policy, which confines people to these islands. It is not necessary for migration control or the administration of the asylum system,” Cosse said.
“With the EU’s support, Greece should rapidly expand safe accommodation and services on the mainland and create a system to move people there quickly,” she said.
An HRW report on the mental health crisis facing asylum seekers on the island of Lesvos can be found here.