Memo: The UN has urged Greece to tackle the issue of overcrowding in refugee reception centres as reports emerge of spate of suicide attempts by minors.
Overcrowding means “thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants, including many children, live in squalid, inadequate and rapidly deteriorating conditions”, UN spokesperson Charlie Yaxley said at a press conference at the Palais des Nations in geneva today. Adding that children, including unaccompanied boys and girls, are particularly at risk. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called “on the authorities to rapidly accelerate procedures for those eligible for transfer to the mainland; to increase reception capacity on the mainland to host them; quickly improve conditions in reception centres and provide alternative accommodation for the most vulnerable.”
The calls come as news sites report on suicide attempts by refugees in overcrowded camps in Greece. The thousands of asylum-seekers who have been squashed in to spaces built to accommodate only one-third of their number has led to increased violence, reports have said.
A refugee who spoke to the BBC said: “We found that there was already existing sectarianism and racism, whether it was between Sunnis and Shias, or Kurds, Arabs and Afghans.”
“It’s like the war in Syria and even uglier. We heard about rape cases in there [Greek detention centres], sexual harassment,” Ali said.
As a result, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said its staff are dealing with children as young as ten attempting to commit suicide.
“It’s something we’re seeing constantly,” said Luca Fontana, Lesbos co-ordinator for MSF.