Last month, UNICEF issued a statement calling for children stranded in Moria on the island of Lesbos to be transferred to accommodation on mainland Greece. Many of the children are traumatised and vulnerable; they are in need of psychosocial support and at risk of violence in the camp.
Conditions have worsened as the number of arrivals increases. According to UNICEF, the number of children arriving in Greece in 2018 has increased by 32% in comparison with 2017. This amounts to an average of 850 child arrivals every month.
Greek law stipulates 25 days as the maximum length of stay in a reception centre but some have been held there for more than a year in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. According to government figures, Moria is now at nearly three times its capacity. Christina Kalogirou, regional governor in Lesbos, has threatened to shut down the camp unless conditions improve, citing raw sewage streaming out of the entrance.
UNICEF representative Lucio Melandri said that conditions are worsening and are likely to deteriorate further as arrivals increase and authorities struggle to cope: “The majority of children and young people I met have dealt with the trauma of war and then been forced to flee their homes. Now they are living in miserable conditions, with no end in sight. Many are in severe emotional distress.”
This account is corroborated by Médecins Sans Frontières, which issued a report detailing that many teenagers in camps such as Moria are suffering from anxiety and other mental health disorders, with some even attempting suicide or self-harm. This organisation too has called for the evacuation of vulnerable individuals to the mainland or other EU countries. Government spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that 2,000 individuals would be moved from Lesbos to the mainland by the end of September. He admitted that the situation in Moria “is indeed difficult, it is indeed at the limit.”
This blog was written by Natalia Ventikos.