Greece moved another 400 people from its biggest migrant camp yesterday as the International Rescue Committee (IRC) charity warned of a mental health emergency there with 30 percent of people having attempted suicide.The government, under pressure from aid groups and local authorities, has said it will transfer 2,000 people from Moria camp on Lesbos to the mainland by the end of the month. Opened in 2015, the Moria camp was intended to be a transit location for migrants arriving in Lesbos during the mass influx of refugees that summer; however, the Greek government does not allow them to go to the mainland as many central and eastern European countries have abruptly closed their borders to keep away migrants.
In a report published yesterday, the IRC said asylum-seekers in Moria, most of whom are Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan, were under "enormous mental strain."
Citing testimonials of patients who have visited its own clinic on the island, IRC said that in addition to the 30 percent of people who had attempted suicide about 60 percent had contemplated it.
"Several times I have attempted suicide," it quoted Ahmad, a 35-year-old Iraqi single father of four children as saying. "The only reason I am glad I didn't succeed is because of the children."
Asylum seekers were living in conditions that did not meet humanitarian standards, IRC said. Eighty-four people shared one shower and 72 shared one toilet."The sewage system is so overwhelmed that raw sewage has been known to reach the mattresses where children sleep, and flows untreated into open drains and sewers," IRC said.
Moria, in a disused military base, now holds nearly three times as many people as it was designed to, according to government figures, forcing hundreds to spill over in tents in an olive grove. Close to 900 people were moved between Sept. 10-20 and an another 1,000 will be transferred this week, Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas said on Monday. Most are taken to facilities in northern Greece.
Jana Frey, IRC's Greece director, said the government needed to sustain efforts to ease overcrowding. "We need a long-term strategy that ensures we never again see conditions like this at Moria," Frey said.
Small numbers of boats carrying migrants and refugees continue to arrive on Greece's islands every week. A slow asylum process and huge backlog of applications mean it can take months for decisions to be delivered.