Almost five years on from the establishment of five EU-funded Reception and Identification Centres (RICs) or ‘hotspots’1 on the Greek islands, nearly 15,000 people remain stranded in these camps.
Having survived harrowing journeys to Europe, they find themselves trapped in dangerous, overcrowded and inhumane living conditions for months, and many for as long as two years.
People who came in search of safety are instead further traumatised by their present and anxious about their future. In September 2018, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) published ‘Unprotected, Unsupported, Uncertain’.3 This report detailed the shortcomings at the heart of the EU’s asylum and migration policies and their detrimental impact on the mental health of asylum-seekers living in Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesvos. Two years later, this new IRC report finds that the situation has worsened significantly. It draws on fresh data spanning two and a half years to October 2020.
The data was collected from 904 people supported by the IRC’s mental health programmes on the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos, and is backed up by testimonies and interviews. This report sets out proposals for immediate action to improve the dire conditions they endure. The IRC’s research reveals consistent accounts of severe mental health conditions, including depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and self-harm among people of all ages and backgrounds. As many as three out of four of the people the IRC has assisted through its mental health programme on the three islands reported experiencing symptoms such as sleeping problems, depression and anxiety. At least two out of five people reported symptoms of PTSD and nearly one in ten had psychotic symptoms and were self-harming. One in three people reported suicidal thoughts, while one in five reported having made attempts to take their lives.