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As Sexual Assault Plagues Greek Refugee Camps, Migrants Feel 'Voiceless'

© REUTERS / Marko DjuricaPeople queue for free food at a makeshift camp for migrants and refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, May 11, 2016.
People queue for free food at a makeshift camp for migrants and refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, May 11, 2016. - Sputnik International
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Women and children living in refugee camps in the EU are at a high risk of sexual assault, with reports showing that in one government-run camp in Greece, female refugees are even afraid to visit restrooms at night. Sputnik discussed this issue with emergency communications delegate at the International Federation of the Red Cross Nichola Jones.

“Across Greece there is an increase in tension in general. As you know now there are around 57,000 people who have been living in these camps for several months since March. So we have seen an increase in violence, in gender based violence and also reports of fighting and sexual attacks. The Red Cross is obviously concerned about this,” Jones said.

She said that this tension is growing because the people have no idea about what their future holds and due to the poor living conditions in these camps.

“Women and children are most vulnerable people so they are often the ones that can find themselves victims in these situations. What we do know and what we are saying to the government is that the conditions in these camps are compounding this issue and we would all like to see it addressed,” Jones added.

A worker removes tents used by migrants during a police operation to evacuate a migrants' makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, May 26, 2016 - Sputnik International
Over 57,000 Migrants, Asylum Seekers Resident in Greece
The Red Cross official further said that people living in these camps have suffered trauma and huge psychological ordeals as well and that is most acute in Greece because that is where people have been stranded the longest.

“Camp setting is not a solution for people for long time. It is not a sustainable option for living. Our agency along with other agencies is encouraging the government to consider other long term solutions,” Jones said.

One volunteer, working at Softex camp on the outskirts of Thessaloniki, which hosts 1.400 Syrian migrants, alleged that girls have been effectively groomed by male gangs. The volunteer, who asked to remain anonymous, said family members were so demoralized that they were planning to leave the European Union and return to the country they fled.

The official said that the security inside the camp and management is ultimately the responsibility of the Greek government.

“One of the camps near Athens is located in a port so that is the responsibility of the Greek navy. Some of the camps are tents and you can imagine this time of the year with the heat, it’s really difficult for the people who are living there. There are people living inside steel containers. It’s extremely difficult for people and we are concerned with the long term psychological effects on the people.”

“People have no idea what is going to happen to them. They feel stranded, they feel voiceless and these are the people who fled violence and persecution around the world, so they really need support and deserve a lot better,” concluded Jones.

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