Poor conditions in camps such as Moria can make life difficult and often dangerous for refugees
Five migrants, including a Palestinian refugee, committed suicide on the Greek islands of Leros and Chios, Greek news outlets have reported.
The list of victims includes a woman from Syria and an Iranian national.
Local sources said the migrants committed suicide after the Greek authorities turned down their asylum applications, leaving them at the risk of refoulement.
Human rights sources continue to slam the Greek coast guard and migration authorities for the simmering crackdowns against refugees and asylum-seekers.
Athens’ centre right government, rallying EU support earlier this year, deployed riot police and military patrols to the land border while dispatching gunships and coastguard vessels to conduct around-the-clock patrols off the Turkish coast.
Human rights groups claim conditions in island camps have also worsened as a result of restrictive measures to stem the spread of the virus. Although lockdown policies have gradually been lifted across Greece they are still enforced in holding centers with night curfews still in place.
“We have seen a noticeable rise in all sorts of violence, from tent violence to sexual violence because people are forced to spend much more time in camps,” said Apostolos Veizis, the medical director of Médecins Sans Frontières in Greece. “These people are not treated as human but numbers. The situation for them is utterly inhumane.”
Activists held the Greek authorities responsible for the mounting tension in overcrowded migrant facilities, saying refugees have been psychologically distressed due to the substandard living conditions they have been made to endure in reception centers and the absence of life-saving healthcare services at a time when reports of coronavirus cases have soared.
The migrants, including hundreds of Palestinian refugees, have been subjected to dire conditions on the island and deprived of their basic human rights, including access to water, power, and relief services.
Recently, human rights groups have warned that Greek police have been using tear gas, water cannon, and stun grenades to push back the border crossers. Turkey has accused Greek forces of shooting and killing at least four migrants – a charge Greece denies.
Greek authorities have made no secret of their resolve and even their use of aggressive tactics to block illegal crossings. But the government in Athens is denying accusations of deadly attacks on migrants.
In a March 17 report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Greek security forces and unidentified armed men at the Greece-Turkey land border have detained, assaulted, sexually assaulted, robbed, and stripped asylum seekers and migrants, then forced them back to Turkey.
“The European Union is hiding behind a shield of Greek security force abuse instead of helping Greece protect asylum seekers and relocate them safely throughout the EU,” said Nadia Hardman, refugee rights researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch. “The EU should protect people in need rather than support forces who beat, rob, strip, and dump asylum seekers and migrants back across the river.”
Between March 7 and 9, Human Rights Watch interviewed 21 asylum seekers and migrants, 17 of whom were men and 4 women, in Turkey about how they tried to enter Greece over the land border following the Turkish government’s February 27 announcement that it would no longer stop asylum seekers and migrants from leaving Turkey to reach the European Union.
All those interviewed said that within hours after they crossed in boats or waded through the river, armed men wearing various law enforcement uniforms or in civilian clothes, including all in black with balaclavas, intercepted everyone in their group. All said the men detained them in official or informal detention centers, or on the roadside, and stole their money, mobile phones, and bags before summarily pushing them back to Turkey.
Seventeen interviewees also described how the men assaulted them and others, including women and children, through electric shocks, beating with wooden or metal rods, prolonged beating of the soles of feet, punching, kicking, and stomping.