MSF Decries Failed EU-Turkey Migration Deal Amid Greek Island Camps Overflow
The European Union's migrant swap deal with Turkey has failed asylum seekers in Greek island camps, with some resorting to self-harm to escape indefinite entrapment, Sophie McCann from Doctors Without Borders (MSF), a medical charity, told Sputnik.
MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 19th September, 2018) The European Union's migrant swap deal with Turkey has failed asylum seekers in Greek island camps, with some resorting to self-harm to escape indefinite entrapment, Sophie McCann from Doctors Without Borders (MSF), a medical charity, told Sputnik.
Brussels and Ankara agreed in March 2016 that immigrants arriving in Greece would be returned to Turkey if their claim for asylum was rejected, while those in Turkish migrant camps would be resettled in Europe on one-for-one basis.
"Clearly to us, and I think to everyone, is that the EU-Turkey deal which is causing congestion and the trapped situation for asylum-seekers, is not working; there has to be another solution," Sophie McCann, the MSF advocacy manager for Greece, said.
McCann said that the Moria camp on Lesbos island sees a constant influx of migrants. Around 9,000 people have been crammed into the center, which has a maximum capacity of 3,100.
"The Greek authorities really have to step up and increase the capacity in order to provide dignified reception conditions to asylum-seekers and move them from the island, because this situation is untenable, it's unacceptable, we are concerned about the mental health crisis that is taking place not only in Lesbos, but we understand in other islands as well," she said.
She complained of health problems associated with cramped conditions, such as infections among children, and severe lack of protection for those vulnerable, specifically women and children.
A pediatric clinic in the Moria camp receives an average of 150 children a day, according to the activist. An ambulance has to be called to the facility on a regular basis as the government has failed to provide adequate medical assistance.
"The hospitals are also overwhelmed. The population on Lesbos has increased by 25 percent with the hotspots, refugees and migrants living in the area ... Hospitals are striving to meet the needs of local population, as well as migrant population," McCann added.
Greek camps have become de facto prisons for asylum seekers who are not allowed to leave until their asylum claims have been processed.
.. Because of such a huge number of asylum claims the Greek authorities don't have the capacity or the ability to process them in a quick way, which means that we have a huge population trapped effectively in an indefinite period of time," the MSF officer said.
McCann said that migrants were being kept in the dark about the status of their asylum claim and were effectively stranded.
"Our patients often tell us they don't know what's going on with their asylum claim, and knowing that they are not allowed off the island, they are trapped on the island is having an incredibly negative impact on people," she added.
STRUGGLING WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
McCann said some of the patients seen by MSF harmed themselves and attempted to take their own lives in order to escape the unbearable conditions and hopelessness in refugee camps. Some of them were children.
"What is particularly concerning is the deterioration of children's mental health... We see children under the age of 12, presenting with self-harm, scars and some attempted suicides on increasingly regular basis," she said.
The medical charity has called for an emergency evacuation of all vulnerable people and children from the Lesbos island so that they can be either placed in an accommodation on the Greek mainland or moved to other European countries.
"We believe it's the responsibility of the EU member-states to accommodate vulnerable people and children and asylum-seekers coming to Europe in a respectful and dignified way that is in line with the international humanitarian and refugee law ... This is a third year running that we have been calling for emergency decongestion of the island," McCann said.
She has that emergency relocation alone would not suffice as refugees kept coming to Greek islands. The European Union, she said, needs to find new ways to accommodate and provide dignified reception to people fleeing violent war and prosecution.