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Self-harm rises in Greek migrant camps amid lockdown: study

Mental health conditions are spiking in refugee camps [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 December, 2020

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A major increase in self-harm and mental health problems has accompanied the coronavirus lockdown in Greek refugee camps.

A major increase in self-harm and mental health conditions has accompanied the coronavirus lockdown in Greece's refugee camps, a prominent aid group said Thursday.

The International Rescue Committee said data from three islands with the largest migrant populations -- Lesbos, Chios and Samos -- showed that three quarters of more than 900 people assisted since 2018 had such symptoms.

As of the end of October, 41 percent had reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, 35 percent reported suicidal thoughts and 18 percent reported having attempted to take their own lives, IRC said. 

And immediately after Greece imposed a virus lockdown in March, there was a 71 percent increase in psychotic symptoms and a 66 percent increase in self-harm, the group said.

More than 15,000 people live in camps in the three islands, and over 17,000 in Aegean camps overall, according to government data.

On Lesbos, more than 7,000 people are staying in a makeshift tent camp set up after the permanent facility burned down in September.

On Monday, a three-year-old Afghan girl was found semi-conscious and bleeding in the camp lavatory, with authorities saying she was likely raped.

"The mental health of refugees has been decimated this year, in the wake of devastating fires in Lesbos and Samos, Covid and the lockdown restrictions brought with it, and the move to a new temporary reception centre on Lesbos, which is yet to provide dignified living conditions," said IRC Greece director Dimitra Kalogeropoulou.

Only a few thousand refugees have been allowed to relocate to other EU states this year, despite repeated requests by Athens and the European Commission.

These include around 1,300 ailing or unaccompanied minors. 

"We need a fair and predictable system whereby EU member states share responsibility for hosting new arrivals, which respects the right of each individual to a full assessment of their asylum application," said Imogen Sudbery, IRC director of policy for Europe.

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