© Robin Hammond/Witness Change
19 Nov 18 20 Nov 18

International Children's Day - Trapped in Moria

A population of 7,500+, including 2,000+ children, is currently living in a space for 3,100 in appalling and inhumane conditions in Moria camp, on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Since 2016, this camp is officially a “hotspot”- functional to the implementation of the so called EU Turkey deal: here, people who arrived by boat from Turkey should be identified as asylum seekers and relocated to other areas in the Greek mainland or sent back to Turkey if they can be considered safe in there, and their asylum requests rejected.

In reality, this agreement between the EU and Turkey, which is going against the basic principles of the Refugee Convention, is also completely dysfunctional, leaving people contained for months or even years inside Moria with no hope and little idea about their future.

As a consequence of this inhumane policy, the situation in Moria reaches breaking point on a cyclical basis, with overcrowding creating inhumane living conditions that in turn have a dramatic impact on the health and the mental health of refugees and asylum seekers.

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Among these people, children are the most vulnerable.

Between February and June this year, in a group mental health activity for children (between 6-18 years), MSF teams observed that nearly a quarter of the children (18 of our 74) had self-harmed, attempted suicide or had thought about committing suicide.

The awful conditions in Moria and the situation of limbo deny these children of a safe space for the recovery they need. On the contrary, the violent environment and the lack of safety and protection, often re-traumatise children who have already experienced horrendous events in their country of origin or on their journey.  

Through the therapeutic groups, in our safe space, we found that children were able to open up about things that were difficult for them to express previously. It gave them hope to share their stories and emotions with each other. The groups offered these traumatised children a space where they could be kids again, not just numbers trapped in an inhumane and dangerous camp.

On International Children’s Day, we want to draw attention to the deteriorating mental health of children who are stuck, indefinitely, in Moria.

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