Suicide warning for 10-year-olds in Greek island camps

Desperation over conditions threatens lives of refugees

MYTILENE, GREECE - MAY 20:  A refugee child looks through a fence at the Moria refugee camp on May 20, 2018 in Mytilene, Greece. Despite being built to hold only 2,500 people, the camp on the Greek island of Lesbos is home to over 6,000 asylum seekers who crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey's nearby shore by boat, usually at night to avoid interception. Although the numbers of arrivals are lower than at the beginning of the crisis in 2015, when Syrians and Iraqis fled ISIS-controlled strongholds, boatloads of refugees from those countries and other troubled areas continue to land there, and critics say the local governments have yet to manage the situation, leading the squalid conditions at Moria to be seen as symbolic of poorly-managed policy. The camp, on the site of a former military base, is comprised of shipping containers, tents, and improvised shelters of wooden pallets and tarps, whose residents stranded there complain of poor food, power failures, disease, lack of medical care, and poisonous snakes as they wait to obtain transfer to the mainland and less temporary legal status.  (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
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Children as young as 10 are attempting suicide because of conditions at the Moria refugee camp in Lesbos, an aid charity has said.

Medecins sans Frontieres has reported that children and adults are in severe mental distress due to conditions in the Greek camp. It has called for better healthcare provision as well as measures to move vulnerable people to secure accommodation.

Moria, established in 2015 and run by the Greek government, hosts more than 8,000 people in a space designed for 3,100. It has long been criticised for poor and unhygienic conditions as well as violent clashes between refugees living there, as sectarian and national divides come into play.

Conditions became so bad in 2016 that aid agencies including Oxfam and Save the Children pulled out of the camp in protest. MSF has since set up a centre in Mytilene, just outside Moria to help its residents.

Faris Al Jawad, field communications manager at MSF in Greece told The National the camp has only one doctor and one psychologist for its overcrowded population. That is nowhere near enough for a place where most people are suffering some type of trauma.

“Everybody in Moria needs mental health care because the situation is that affecting to people's mental health,” he said, adding that 2,700 people had been recognised as vulnerable in the camp.

MSF said it can only deal with the most severe cases as it does not have the resources to provide for the care needs of all refugees.

“The majority of these people are new arrivals suffering from psychotic symptoms including hallucinations, agitation, confusion, disorientation, and who have strong suicidal ideations or have attempted suicide,” Dr Alessandro Barberio, an MSF psychiatrist at the clinic said last month.


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“In the past four weeks we have also received an increase in the number of minors suffering from intense panic attacks, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.”

Camp resident  Sara Khan, from Afghanistan, told the BBC: "We are always ready to escape, 24 hours a day we have our children ready.

"The violence means our little ones don't get to sleep."

The Moria camp was intended to host refugees only for a few days at a time for registration before moving on into mainland Europe. This changed after a 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey to send refugees back to the country. The EU states more than 70,000 refugees have arrived since the containment policy was implemented in March 2016, yet only 2,224 have been returned to Turkey.

This has resulted in a growing number of people facing an indefinite stay on the island with little information on their refugee status forthcoming.

Mr Al Jawad says it is a “nightmare limbo”  after escaping trauma, persecution and war in their home countries, refugees face an uncertain future due to the containment and return deal struck between the EU and Turkey, waiting in squalor to hear their fate.