Children and women have been sexually assaulted at official migrant camps in Greece and have been too afraid to leave their tents at night, the Guardian reported on Saturday.
Several charities and rights groups said that children, some as young as seven, have been exposed to sexual abuse after being stranded in migrant camps in Greece, which are supposedly safe.
According to the report, the risk of sexual attack is so high in one of the government-run camps in Thessaloniki that women are too afraid to go to the camp toilets alone at night. After the informal camp at Idomeni on the Macedonian-Greek border was closed, the Greek government built a series of camps near Thessaloniki.
The Guardian reported that one volunteer in one of the camps alleged that gangs of men assaulted some young girls and an Iraqi family had to be moved to another accommodation after a similar incident happened to their daughters. The volunteer said the girl who was attacked was only seven years old.
Some families even started to plan to return to the country they had left and abandon their plans to resettle in Europe. The head of the charity Doctors of the World, Nikitas Kanakis, said claims of child sexual abuse at migrant camps in Greece is "vastly exaggerated." But Anna Chiara Nava from the charity Doctors Without Borders in Thessaloniki said they heard allegations that children were being victimized.
Sixty percent of migrants are believed to be Syrian at the Softex camp mentioned in the report. Several deputies from U.K.'s Labour Party called for immediate action to protect vulnerable children who are likely to be eligible to claim asylum in Britain.
Apart from sexual abuse allegations, conditions at migrant camps in Greece, most of them overcrowded, have also long been criticized by rights groups. More than 1 million people made the journey to Europe in 2015, the majority fleeing war in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, in an attempt to seek security and shelter in more prosperous and peaceful countries.