By Karolina Tagaris
Women in Greek migrant camps are too scared to leave their tents at night or use communal showers, and many pregnant women have to sleep on the floor in unsanitary conditions, Amnesty International said on Friday.
More than half of refugees and migrants arriving in Greece are women and children, according to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.
The numbers are small compared to those at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015. But slow and lengthy asylum procedures mean thousands of asylum-seekers are holed up in crowded facilities on a few Greek islands.
There, everyday activities like taking a shower have become dangerous for women and girls, Amnesty said in a report. Lack of sanitation and clean drinking water, as well as streams of raw sewage and mice infestations, are common in all camps, it said.
” shower in the camp is cold and there is no lock. Men walk in when you are inside. There are no lights in the toilets,” Amnesty quoted one woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose name was changed to Adele, as saying.
“At night, sometimes I go to the toilet with my sister or pee in a bucket,” said Adele, who arrived on the island of Samos in December.
Pregnant asylum-seekers told Amnesty they had to sleep on the floor and had little, if any, access to antenatal care. Other women spent their limited cash on sanitary pads.
“Everything is dirty here. It’s impossible to keep clean and when we have our period, it is very difficult,” Adele said.
“This is not the Europe that the world imagines,” Amnesty Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo told Reuters on Friday, after visiting Greece’s biggest migrant camp on the island of Lesbos.
“The conditions are appalling. This is a wake-up call that we need to push very hard for the suspension and cancellation of the EU-Turkey deal,” he said, referring to a 2016 accord to stem refugee flows to Greece that has stranded thousands of people in the country.
Some of Greece’s island camps have grown so congested that they operate at more than double their capacity, according to the latest government figures. To ease overcrowding, authorities have begun moving hundreds to facilities on the mainland.
Amnesty said women there said they felt “abandoned”.
“We feel totally forgotten. Some of us have been in the camp for two years and nothing is changing. We don’t know what will happen to us,” said one Yazidi woman from Iraq, staying in the Skaramagas camp near Athens.
Humanitarian organizations working in the camp had reported that smugglers and people bearing weapons had been in the facility, Amnesty said.