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Residents at Moria refugee camp live in fear, new survey shows

TAGS: Migration, Survey

A shocking 65.7 percent of respondents in a new survey conducted at the Moria hot spot and other migrant and refugee camps on the Aegean island of Lesvos said they “never feel safe” in the facilities where they are staying.

The survey by UK-based Refugee Rights Europe was published recently in a report titled “An Island in Despair,” which presented findings gleaned from 311 surveys conducted at the camps of Moria – the biggest facility by far and the only “official” one on the island – Kara Tepe and PIKPA from June 18-22 by experienced field researchers and native speakers of all the key languages used.

Most of the respondents, 32.8 percent, at the time of the survey were from Syria, followed by nationals from Afghanistan (26.7 percent) and Iraq (12.9). More than half of the minors interviewed were from Afghanistan, while a substantial 30.4 percent were from Syria. The remaining children identified as Iraqi, Congolese and Egyptian. Exactly half of all respondents identified as being alone in Lesvos and 47.1 percent stated that they were with family.

According to the report, “the lack of safety and security was a major concern among all of the respondents, and particularly so at Moria, with 65.7 percent saying they “never feel safe” inside the camps and another 22.4 percent that they “don’t feel very safe.”

“I stay awake with a stick to protect my children and my wife from any potential attack,” one respondent was quoted as telling researchers. “No-one can walk alone, we always try to be three or four together. Here is hell.”

An alarming 48.2 percent of respondents also said that they have witnessed another camp resident die, with 53.4 percent of that percentage saying that the fatality occurred as a result of violence and 40.5 believing that a death had resulted from untreated health problems.

Asked whether they have experienced violence from Greek citizens, 72.7 percent said they had not, with the other 27.3 percent saying they had been subjected to violence, mostly of a verbal nature.

However, indicative of the results of cramped conditions at the camps – and Moria especially, where the population last week reached 8,359 residents even though the facility is designed to hold just 3,100 – and the struggle for resources, 47.1 percent of the survey's respondents said they had experienced violence from other refugees in Lesvos.

“One camp resident explained that fights often break out during weekly food distributions. On one occasion, the desperation of two women waiting for nappies for their babies resulted in a brawl which in turn led to one of the women being taken to the hospital,” the Refugee Rights Europe researchers reported.

Also worryingly, 47.4 percent of respondents had experienced some form of police violence, with 84.9 percent of those claiming to have been exposed to tear gas. Physical violence was reported by 34.3 percent and verbal abuse by 35.6 percent had experienced verbal abuse. “There were also reports of sexual abuse, although it should be noted that it has not been possible to verify these accounts,” the report said.

On the matter of health and sanitation standards, which have come under severe criticism from groups including the United Nations refugee agency and Medecins Sans Frontieres, the survey found that 86.2 percent of respondents have experienced health problems since coming to Lesvos: “57.1 percent of those who reported health problems believed that these had been brought on by the unhealthy camp environment, and an alarming 61.1 percent of those with a health problem said that they had not received medical care,” the report said.

Also 45.9 percent of those who reported health problems said they believed their issue to be psychological rather than physical. 

Read the full report here.

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