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Citizens for Justice and Peace

Increased risk of sexual violence towards women and children on Greek migrant hotspots

15, Feb 2018 | CJP Team

According to Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the agency “received reports from 622 survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) on the Greek Aegean islands, out of which at least 28 per cent experienced SGBV after arriving in Greece.” Pouilly, at a Geneva press briefing, noted that UNHCR was “very concerned by reports from asylum seekers of sexual harassment and violence in sub-standard reception centres on the Greek islands”. Pouilly acknowledged that the Greek government’s move to expedite transfers has eased overcrowding, but noted that the situation was “particularly worrying in the Reception and Identification Centres” of Moria, on the island of Lesvos, and Vathy, on the island of Samos. Pouilly said around 5,500 people are in these centres, which is twice the centres’ capacity. Moria has seen “particularly high” numbers of reports of sexual harassment, Pouilly noted, adding that bathrooms and latrines at these two centres are “no-go zones after dark for women or children, unless they are accompanied.” Bathing in the day can also be “dangerous,” she said with one woman in Moria telling the agency she had refrained from showering for two months due to fear. Pouilly also noted the crowded work conditions for staff, such as social workers, psychologists and medical staff, which hindered their ability to single out and assist SGBV survivors. Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticised the Greek government’s response to the UNHCR. The country’s Ministry for Migration Policy suggested that the UN agency’s findings were not “thorough” or “scientifically substantiated,” according to HRW. HRW also noted that its own investigations also found similar concerns. HRW interviewed 25 women and girls in Moria in November 2017, saying that they too “described harassment, the threat of gender-based violence, and health risks.” 

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