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‘A psychological well being emergency’: no finish to trauma for refugees on Lesbos


Nadia hasn’t slept. The mom of 5 spent final evening making an attempt to assuage her seven-year-old son, Matin, who’s autistic, whereas heavy rain fell on the household’s tent. He was crying and asking for the noise to cease. “I attempted to clarify to him that the rain shouldn’t be in our management,” she says, “however in these moments, you’ll be able to’t attain him any extra.”

The household, initially from Parwan province in Afghanistan, live within the new refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos that was inbuilt three days, after the fireplace that razed to the bottom elements of the notorious Moria camp.

Nadia, 38, washes Matin, who has lately recovered from scabies, utilizing water from a plastic bottle. She says she has seen a gentle deterioration in his behaviour and sleeping. “We are able to’t sleep any extra,” she says. “I want Matin to get right into a heat place. That is my solely want.”

A report launched final week by the Worldwide Rescue Committee (IRC), which incorporates testimonies from 904 contributors of IRC well being programmes from camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos, confirmed that after the primary lockdown in March there was a 71% improve within the variety of folks experiencing psychotic signs, and a 66% improve in self-harm.

Anna Schlegel, who began Medical Volunteers Worldwide’s programme working with youngsters on Lesbos, says emotional instability is widespread among the many youngsters they deal with. “They are going to get both very aggressive or unhappy from one minute to the subsequent. Amongst our 32 youngster sufferers, points additionally embrace bedwetting, stuttering and sleepwalking.”

“Kids [have] additionally began utilizing self-harm to eliminate pressure and the overwhelming feelings they face by way of the retraumatisation,” says Schlegel, including that the Moria fireplace on 8 September nonetheless weighed closely on some youngsters. “One boy now we have in our group was all the time targeted on fireplace. If he’d see a constructing, he would deal with it and ask how it might look if it was burning down.”

“We’ve not seen a psychological well being care emergency like this one, even in Moria,” says Thanasis Chirvatidis, a baby psychologist with Médecins Sans Frontières on Lesbos who mentioned the dad and mom wanted to be stabilised psychologically first.

“If a baby sees his dad and mom giving up or being afraid, the ‘scaffolding’ breaks away from them too,” says Chirvatidis, including that youngsters don’t have the identical mechanisms as adults to precise their fears. “Most of it surfaces throughout sleep.”



Kids at a quarantine camp within the new non permanent camp close to Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos. {Photograph}: Manolis Lagoutaris/AFP/Getty Pictures

In 2020 MSF has handled 49 youngsters on Lesbos with ideas of suicide or for suicide makes an attempt.

The present demand for MSF’s companies is greater than the organisation can meet and there’s a prolonged ready checklist for the paediatric clinic and the clinic for victims of torture and sexual violence.

Rainfall has left elements of the camp waterlogged and tents have been flooded on a couple of event. Human rights organisations have raised issues about substandard residing circumstances for inhabitants of the camp, dubbed “Moria 2.0” by many on the bottom. Thirty-six scorching water showers have simply been put in however most of the 7,300 residents nonetheless bathe utilizing buckets or water bottles.

Lockdown restrictions imply that residents are solely allowed to depart as soon as per week to go to the grocery store, a lawyer or the pharmacy. Exits are monitored and fines given out for residents not carrying masks. “Many youngsters are additionally afraid of the police,” says Chirvatidis, “they aren’t perceived as protectors however primarily as punishers.”

Petra Molnar, from the Migration and Expertise Monitor, says safety measures are having an impression on folks’s psychological well being. “We’re seeing the rise of surveillance applied sciences like drones patrolling the skies, and the elevated use of closed and managed services like the brand new camp on Lesbos,” she says. “Such a omnipresent surveillance and poisonous ongoing stress has long-term psychological well being repercussions, particularly for youngsters.”

Refugees and migrants make their way in the Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos.



Refugees and migrants make their approach within the Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos. {Photograph}: Elias Marcou/Reuters

Lesbos shouldn’t be the one Aegean island coping with a rising psychological well being disaster. Samos has simply over 3,600 folks residing on an space of land designed for 648. The island was rocked by an earthquake in October, in addition to by current fires within the camp, the place some residents have misplaced all their paperwork or belongings.

“Every time one thing like this occurs, it simply type of pushes them over the sting,” says Lindsay Solera-Deuchar, an MSF psychiatrist who has labored on Samos for almost two months. In November, 60% of recent arrivals at their clinic expressed suicidal ideas, she says. “It actually seems like generally we’re combating a shedding battle.”

Guilia Cicoli, from the Mazi youth centre on Samos, mentioned she had heard some college students specific suicidal ideas reminiscent of, “I don’t need to reside any extra”, and “I don’t know when this can finish.”

Kids make up round 1 / 4 of the inhabitants of the camp on Samos, which is perched on a hill, overlooking the city of Vathy. Most individuals sleep exterior the camp boundaries, the place rats, scabies and mattress bugs are part of every day life. “[People] fortunate sufficient to be housed in a container usually don’t have scorching water, the ground is destroyed, home windows or doorways are lacking and the containers overcrowded,” says Cicoli.

Rainfall has left parts of the new Kara Tepe camp waterlogged, and tents have been flooded on more than one occasion.



Rainfall has left elements of the brand new Kara Tepe camp waterlogged, and tents have been flooded on a couple of event. {Photograph}: Anthi Pazianou/AFP/Getty Pictures

Throughout a go to to Lesbos final week the Greek migration minister Notis Mitarakis mentioned the brand new non permanent camp was “in an excellent state of safety and order”, and “didn’t evaluate to Moria”.

Whereas EU member states debate the resettlement of refugees from the Aegean islands, greater than 14,500 persons are dealing with one other winter in island refugee camps.

Nadia will proceed to depart the camp as soon as per week to take her son to his medical appointments, packing a colouring guide to maintain him busy and carrying three jackets to remain heat.

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