Refugees Say They “Never Feel Safe” in Lesbos Detention Center

FILE - In this Tuesday, May 2, 2018 photo a Syrian family is seen inside a tent at a makeshift camp outside Moria on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Waiting two years and more for asylum applications to be processed, and living among a range of ethnic groups, some 65.7 percent of refugees and migrants living in a detention center on the island of Lesbos said they are afraid all the time.

There is frequent violence in the camp which the BBC, after visiting with a video crew, called the worst refugee center in the world, which Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said he was “proud” of.

A survey by UK-based Refugee Rights Europe, An Island in Despair, presented a shocking picture after interviewing 311 people at the Moria facility, designed to hold 3,100 people, overflowing with 8,359.
Most of the respondents, 32.8 percent, at the time of the survey were from Syria, followed by nationals from Afghanistan (26.7 percent) and Iraq (12.9), said Kathimerini in a report on the findings.

More than half of the minors interviewed were from Afghanistan, and 30.4 percent were from Syria. The remaining children identified as Iraqi, Congolese and Egyptian. Exactly half of all respondents identified as being alone in Lesbos and 47.1 percent stated that they were with family.

According to the report, “the lack of safety and security was a major concern among all of the respondents, and particularly so at Moria, with 65.7 percent saying they “never feel safe” inside the camps and another 22.4 percent that they “don’t feel very safe.”

“I stay awake with a stick to protect my children and my wife from any potential attack,” one respondent was quoted as telling researchers. “No-one can walk alone, we always try to be three or four together. Here is hell.”

Nearly half – 48.2 percent – said they had seen another camp resident die, 53.4 percent saying it was because of violence.

Asked whether they have experienced violence from Greek citizens, 72.7 percent said they had not, with the other 27.3 percent saying they had been subjected to violence, mostly of a verbal nature.
“One camp resident explained that fights often break out during weekly food distributions. On one occasion, the desperation of two women waiting for nappies for their babies resulted in a brawl which in turn led to one of the women being taken to the hospital,” the Refugee Rights Europe researchers reported.

Another 47.4 percent said they had been victims of police brutality and 84.9 percent said they had been tear-gassed when Greek riot cops respond to in-camp violence.

“There were also reports of sexual abuse, although it should be noted that it has not been possible to verify these accounts,” the report said.

The camp, along with others on Aegean islands, are housing people who first went to Turkey to get away from war and strife in their countries and then were taken by human traffickers to Greece but have been stuck on the islands under a suspended European Union swap deal with Turkey, which has taken back only a relative handful and as Europe dumped the problem on Greece during a more than eight-year-long economic crisis.