Aid group: Refugees fac­ing ‘ap­palling con­di­tions’ in Greece

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

The in­ter­na­tional aid group Doc­tors Without Bor­ders says refugees at camps in Greece are still liv­ing in mostly “ap­palling con­di­tions” with poor ac­cess to health care and a lack of pro­vi­sions to iden­tify the most vul­ner­a­ble.

In the re­port is­sued Thurs­day, the agency com­monly known by its French name, Medecins sans Fron­tiers, ar­gued that the Euro­pean Union and Greece had “col­lec­tively failed to es­tab­lish hu­mane and dig­ni­fied re­cep­tion con­di­tions.”

More than 60,000 refugees and mi­grants — many es­cap­ing wars in Syria and Iraq — have been stranded in Greece fol­low­ing Euro­pean bor­der clo­sures this year. Most still live in tents at about 50 refugee camps.

Around 14,000 of them are con­fined to is­lands in the east­ern Aegean Sea where they are be­ing pro­cessed for po­ten­tial de­por­ta­tion back to nearby Tur­key.

At the garbage-strewn refugee camp of Rit­sona, 85 kilo­me­ters (50 miles) north of Athens, chil­dren walk bare­foot and fam­i­lies in tents used wooden pal­lets for floor­ing, to stay above the mud and try to stay warm.

“It’s very bad. How can I ex­plain: I mean very bad,” Syr­ian refugee Yousef Hanash said. “Can you imag­ine liv­ing in a tent with six per­sons and if you have a new­born baby how the sit­u­a­tion will be?”

Hanash said he came to Europe as a last re­sort, un­able to keep his fam­ily safe after his cheese fac­tory was de­stroyed in the war and he moved around Syria.

MSF says peo­ple at risk in­cluded preg­nant women and peo­ple with mo­bil­ity prob­lems, while it de­scribed con­di­tions fac­ing men­tal health pa­tients as “dire.”

“For vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, the lack

of ap­pro­pri­ate ac­com­mo­da­tion and spe­cial­ized care is di­rectly con­tribut­ing to their wors­en­ing health sta­tus and could well be life-threat­en­ing,” the group said.

“For the vic­tims of vi­o­lence or other forms of ill-treat­ment and peo­ple with psy­chi­atric dis­or­ders, in­ad­e­quate liv­ing con­di­tions fur­ther un­der­mine peo­ple’s ef­forts to re-es­tab­lish a sense of nor­mal­ity and safety and to en­gage in a ther­a­peu­tic process.”

The group urged the govern­ment to seek al­ter­na­tives to the refugee camp sys­tem and im­prove a screen­ing process to iden­tify vul­ner­a­ble mi­grants, while it said the Euro­pean Union needed to pro­vide emer­gency fi­nan­cial sup­port to the state health sys­tem.

The govern­ment has re­peat­edly de­fended its record in deal­ing with the refugee cri­sis, not­ing that more than a mil­lion refugees and mi­grants trav­eled through Greece since the be­gin­ning of 2015, stretch­ing state re­sources al­ready un­der pres­sure from years of re­ces­sion and fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

With win­ter ap­proach­ing, the govern­ment is rac­ing to re­place tents with trail­ers at most camps and is plan­ning to use more aban­doned fac­to­ries as shel­ter space.

Ear­lier this week, the U.N. refugee agency said it had launched a pro­gram to dis­trib­ute win­ter clothes, sleep­ing bags and ther­mal blan­kets to about 38,000 camp dwellers on the Greek main­land. UNHCR worked with a num­ber of char­i­ties to com­plete the dis­tri­bu­tion by the end of the month.

MSF is one of the most ac­tive agen­cies in Greece in deal­ing with the refugee cri­sis, with pro­grams at more than a dozen sites and pro­vides sup­port at most oth­ers.

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