ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece should urgently move children and other vulnerable migrants and refugees from its most overcrowded island camp to the mainland or to other EU countries for the sake of their mental and physical health, the MSF aid agency said on Monday.
The appeal from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) came days after the governor of the region where the Moria camp is based said it should be closed next month unless authorities clean up “uncontrollable amounts of waste”.
MSF said it had witnessed an unprecedented health crisis in the camp, Greece’s biggest and home to some 9,000 migrants, a third of whom are children. It said many teenagers had attempted to commit suicide or were harming themselves on a weekly basis.
Other children suffer from elective mutism, panic attacks and anxiety, it said in a statement.
“This is the third year that MSF has been calling on the Greek authorities and the EU to take responsibility for their collective failures,” the agency said.
“It is time to immediately evacuate the most vulnerable to safe accommodation in other European countries.”
The migrants in the camp, which is on the island of Lesbos, are housed in shipping containers and flimsy tents in conditions widely criticized as falling short of basic standards.
Greece is a gateway into the European Union for hundreds of thousands of refugees who have arrived since 2015 from Syria and other war-ravaged countries in the Middle East and from Africa.
Athens, which exited the biggest bailout in economic history in August, is struggling to handle the thousands of refugees who are stranded on its islands.
It has criticized Europe’s handling of the refugee crisis and some EU member states for being reluctant to share their burden.
Last week, 19 non-governmental organizations urged Greece to take action to alleviate the plight of refugees in all its island camps, not just Moria, to render them more fit for human habitation. The total number of migrants and refugees holed up in the island camps exceeds 17,000.
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Gareth Jones)