By Meryem Goktas
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Monday called for vulnerable people living in refugee camps on Greek islands to immediately be evacuated to the mainland or within the European Union as attempted suicide and other self-harming is on the rise.
The humanitarian group said in a statement that on the island of Lesbos alone, 9,000 people -- a third of them children -- live at the Moria refugee camp, which has a maximum capacity of 3,100 people.
MSF said “numerous critical incidents” showed the “significant gaps in the protection of children and other vulnerable people”, calling for the immediate evacuation of these groups.
"These children come from countries in war, where they have experienced very extreme violence and trauma," said Declan Barry, MSF's medical coordinator in Greece.
"Rather than receiving care and protection in Europe, they are instead subjected to ongoing fear, stress and episodes of further violence, including sexual violence," he added.
The MSF observed that between February and June of this year, 18 of the 74 children between the ages of 6-18 who attended a group mental health activity at the Moria camp harmed themselves, attempted suicide or thought about it, while other child patients that MSF has treated suffered from elective mutism, panic attacks, anxiety, aggressive outbursts or constant nightmares.
Due to a lack of accommodations at hospitals on the mainland, including in Athens, children cannot access care, the statement added.
"This is the third year that MSF has been calling on the Greek authorities and the European Union to take responsibility for their collective failures and to put in place sustainable solutions to avoid this catastrophic situation," said Louise Roland-Gosselin, MSF head of mission in Greece.
"It is time to immediately evacuate the most vulnerable to safe accommodation in other European countries," she added.