Twenty human rights organizations – including Amnesty International, Oxfam, the Greek Council for Refugees, Oxfam and the local branch of Medecins Du Monde – have urged the Greek government and its European Union partners to ensure that all asylum seekers stranded on the Aegean islands are moved to suitable accommodation on the mainland or relocated to other EU countries as winter approaches.
“In addition to serious overcrowding, asylum seekers continue facing unsanitary and unhygienic conditions and physical violence, including violence based on gender,” the organizations said in a joint statement issued Thursday.
They said that more than 12,500 people are still living in tents and containers unsuitable for cold weather, in five EU-sponsored hotspots on Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Kos, and Leros.
“The lack of basic protection measures leaves women and girls, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT+) people, particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault, and afraid to use site facilities including bathrooms and showers. Medical care, trauma counseling, and psychosocial – or mental health – are insufficient, as is legal counseling and support during the different stages of the asylum procedure,” they said.
The organizations urged Greece to end its “inhumane” containment policy and facilitate the transfer of asylum seekers from the islands – with the support of EU institutions and countries.
“Women, men, and children seeking protection in Europe should be treated in accordance with their rights and not be forced to spend another winter in squalid and unsafe camps,” they said.