Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported last week that a mental health emergency for asylum seekers is unfolding on the Greek islands, mainly created by poor living conditions and neglect and violence. According to an MSF report, the NGO called on the European Union (EU) and authorities in Greece to stop inflicting additional suffering on people who are already traumatized, and to instantly relocate all asylum seekers from the islands to the Greek mainland. The NGO said that on the Greek mainland, the asylum seekers have a greater chance of accessing proper accommodation and health services.
“These people have survived bombing, extreme violence and traumatic events in their home countries or on the road to Europe,” noted Jayne Grimes, manager of MSF’s mental health activities on the island of Samos.
He went on to say that “shamefully it’s what they face on the Greek islands that leads them into despair, hopelessness and self-harm. Every day our teams treat patients who tell us that they would prefer to have died in their country than be trapped here.”
The report issued by MSF on October 10 also added that confronting the mental health emergency on Samos and Lesbos, the scale of the needs for mental healthcare and the severity of patients’ conditions have overwhelmed the capacity of mental health services on the islands.
The MSF official, who noted that there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of patients to the clinic compared to the previous trimester was also reported, assured that between June and September, an average of six to seven new patients per week arrived at MSF’s clinic on Lesbos in acute need of mental health consultations following suicide attempts, incidents of self-harm, or psychotic episodes.
A survey conducted by MSF and Epicentre in Samos in late 2016 and early 2017 reported that close to half of those surveyed had experienced violence while passing through Turkey, and close to a quarter had experienced violence since arriving in Greece. The survey also found that people who arrived on Samos after the EU-Turkey deal was signed in March 2016 reported more violence in Turkey and Greece than those who arrived before the deal came into force. Between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of that violence was allegedly committed by state authorities.