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Children at risk in crowded Greek camps

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The average number of refugees and migrants arriving daily in Greece is at its highest level since May, causing serious congestion in the camps on the islands and putting children at risk, according to Save the Children staff in Greece.

Arrivals to the islands during the first 14 days of August increased by 144 per cent compared to the first 14 days of July*. The island of Chios has seen one of the largest spikes in arrivals with the daily average jumping from eight in July to 42 in August.

While these numbers are well below last year’s, closed camps where families are not allowed to leave and limited movement to the mainland mean that the facilities on the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos are bursting at the seams. There are now more than 10,300 refugees and migrants, including approximately 3,800 children, stranded on a handful of Greek islands. This is forcing women and children to live in demoralising and unsafe conditions.

“We’re nearly back at square one. As the number of arrivals creeps up again, we’re starting to see scenes reminiscent of last summer. Except this time, most asylum seekers are unable to continue their journeys, and are trapped on the islands, in overcrowded facilities, and under the blazing sun,” said Katie Dimmer, Save the Children’s Director of Operations in Greece.

“Mothers with small babies are being forced to sleep on the ground in make-shift tents, children and breastfeeding women are suffering from dehydration due to water shortages in some camps, and tensions are increasing as basic services, such as toilets and showers, are stretched.

“Families who have fled violence and death in their homeland continue to live in fear and do not feel safe. They have told Save the Children staff that they are too scared to let their children out of their sight due to the frequent protests and a lack of security in the camps.”

Save the Children today called on the European Union to urgently step up and ensure that the inhumane treatment of refugees and migrants is immediately ended, particularly the vulnerable and unaccompanied children still detained in closed facilities, months after they arrived in Greece.

“It’s absolutely disgraceful that refugees and migrants have been living in dirty, unsafe conditions for more than four months with no end in sight,” Dimmer said.

“The EU must immediately provide more resources to Greece to improve accommodation facilities, and speed up the processing of asylum claims and the relocation and family reunification programs.”

Asylum seekers frustrated with conditions in the camps, and the lack of clarity regarding their futures have been leaving the islands and making their way unofficially to the mainland. Smuggling and illegal crossings are on the increase in the region, as Serbia continues to record 200-300 new arrivals daily – most coming from Greece, and traveling through FYROM or Bulgaria.

Save the Children has been providing assistance to children and adults across Greece since August 2015. We have operations across key locations in Greece: on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos, and on the mainland in the Attika region (Athens) and in Northern Greece.