Migrant women with newborn babies sent back to live in tents in notorious Greek refugee camp
Migrant and refugee women who give birth on the Greek island of Lesbos are being sent to live in squalid, unheated tents with their babies after as little as four days, according to a new report by Oxfam.
There is no hot water and newborns, along with toddlers and older children, have to be washed outside in the cold.
Around 5,000 asylum seekers are crammed into the island’s notorious Moria camp, which was designed to hold 3,100 people.
It is so overcrowded that another 2,000 are living in tents in a muddy olive grove just outside the perimeter fence.
Some people have been stuck there for years.
“I see Moria as hell. I know women who gave birth, they had a C-section delivery and after four days they were returned to Moria with their newborn babies. They have to recover under dirty, unhealthy conditions,” said Sonia Andreu, a manager at a centre for migrant women on the Aegean island.
Tens of thousands of migrants and refugees have been stranded on Lesbos and other Aegean islands such as Chios and Samos since the Balkan migration route was shut down in 2016 after a deal was struck between the EU and Turkey.
A cold snap this week has brought snow and freezing conditions to many parts of Greece, worsening the already miserable conditions in the camps.
Temperatures on Lesbos are expected to drop to below freezing, bringing the prospect of snow.
Last January, the temperature dropped to -5C and the camp was blanketed in snow.
A 24-year-old migrant from Cameroon died in the camp on Monday night.
Greek authorities have yet to reveal the cause of death and whether it was related to the cold weather.
Chronic understaffing means that the screening process, whereby the most vulnerable people are supposed to be identified, has broken down.
For much of last year, there was just one government-appointed doctor on Lesbos who had the task of screening as many as 2,000 people arriving each month.
Fights regularly break out between migrants, particularly over the long queues for meals, and sexual assault is rife.
Some women have taken to wearing adult nappies so that they do not have to visit the lavatory at night.
Two-thirds of the people inside Moria say they “never feel safe”, according to a report released last June.
“Our partners have met mothers with newborn babies sleeping in tents, and teenagers wrongly registered as adults being locked up,” said Renata Rendón, Oxfam’s head of mission in Greece.
“Surely identifying and providing for the needs of such people is the most basic duty of the Greek government and its European partners.”
Oxfam and other humanitarian organisations called for the Greek and EU authorities to urgently deploy more screening officials, as well as doctors and psychologists, to the Aegean island camps in order to ease the bottleneck.
The most vulnerable people, including minors, pregnant women and women with babies, should be transferred to better facilities on the Greek mainland.
“The situation in Moria is beyond the limits of the imagination. I have been visiting the camp since 2017. Every time you think it cannot get any worse, it does,” said Maria, a social worker for the Greek Council for Refugees, an NGO.
Conditions are so poor that children as young as 10 have attempted suicide, Medecins Sans Frontieres said in a report last summer.
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