Greece to move 2,000 refugees to mainland after increasing suicide attempts by children

The asylum seekers have been staying in an overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos.

Refugees and migrants clean themselves and wash their clothes at a camp outside the Moria refugee camp in the island of Lesbos on August 5, 2018. CREDIT: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images.
Refugees and migrants clean themselves and wash their clothes at a camp outside the Moria refugee camp in the island of Lesbos on August 5, 2018. CREDIT: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images.

Authorities in Greece say they will move roughly 2,000 asylum seekers from the Moria refugee camp holding over 9,000 people on the island of Lesbos to the mainland, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

While the effort is stated as to ease overcrowding, it comes days after Doctors without Borders (MSF) released information on the alarming number of children either self-harming or attempting suicide at the camp.

Its staff has found that between February and June of this year, nearly a quarter of refugees between the ages of 6 and 18 being observed had either tried to hurt or kill themselves. Others suffer from panic attacks, anxiety, and constant nightmares. Some are flat-out unable to speak.

This comports with ThinkProgress’s reporting in February and March, when MSF alerted us to rapes and suicide attempts in Moria.

In a bid to keep migrants and refugees out the European Union, the E.U. has struck several deals, all of which have had dire consequences for those fleeing war, hunger, or persecution to reach their shores.


A deal with Turkey has resulted in a crackdown on the route between it and Greece, forcing migrants to take more dangerous paths. Libyan militias have been paid to keep migrants there, locked up in abhorrent conditions in detention centers. And Greece is getting funding to essentially disincentivize migrants and asylum seekers from the journey by containing them in Greece, and then, gradually, returning them either to Turkey or to their countries of origin.

ThinkProgress reported from three refugee camps in Greece earlier this year, including Moria, where authorities keep visitors on a short leash, and even limit the activities of groups such as Human Rights Watch and MSF, with the latter resorting to setting up a children’s clinic directly outside the gates of Moria in an attempt to reach the camp’s ill children.

On Monday, Alessandro Barberio, a clinical psychiatrist with MSF on Lesbos, wrote an open letter outlining the horrors she has witnessed there. It’s worth noting that MSF’s staff is accustomed to treating people in war zones. Greece is not a war zone.

Saying that Moria is in “a state of emergency,” Barberio wrote:

In all of my years of medical practice, I have never witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions as I am witnessing now amongst refugees on the island of Lesbos. The vast majority of people I see are presenting with psychotic symptoms, suicidal thoughts — even attempts at suicide — and are confused. Many are unable to meet or perform even their most basic everyday functions, such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.

Even with the 2,000 being sent to the mainland, the camp will still be well over its capacity of 3,100.

In a slow-moving, manufactured crisis that has to be seen to be believed, thousands of migrants and asylum seekers have been packed into the horrendously over-crowded camp — a military compound — over the past few years.

The lack of sufficient toilets, showers, and basic medical care means that scabies, measles, and other afflictions burn through the camp’s vulnerable population.


Living in cramped containers or summer tents, the residents of Moria suffer, many of them mentally unraveling, having reached a breaking point after their perilous journey lands them in a filthy, indefinite limbo — not just on Lesbos, but elsewhere Greece as well.

The U.N. has urged Greek authorities to move people to the mainland and to improve conditions for those remaining in the camps — the majority of whom are families from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria — all countries torn up by all-out war.