Human Rights Watch has previously documented violence, insecurity, and unhygienic and unsanitary conditions in the hotspots. As of December 13, the population in Moria, which has a capacity of 2,, was 6, The women and girls interviewed described pervasive sexual harassment and a persistent sense of insecurity in Moria, and said authorities are unresponsive to their complaints and do not take adequate action to ensure their safety. One woman said she had been approached by a fellow asylum seeker asking for sex in exchange for money.
Many said they do not feel safe moving around Moria alone and leave their shelters only in groups or accompanied by male relatives. A year-old girl from Syria said: She left, but she looked at me with a lot of anger. Female asylum seekers said that toilets and showers in Moria are not secure or private, and that they fear going alone. Women and girls also said the toilets are unsanitary and unhygienic, with feces in some showers and toilets, and a lack of running water, forcing them to venture further from their tents to use alternate bathrooms.
Human Rights Watch researchers have visited a number of toilets and showers in Moria and have confirmed these conditions. Those interviewed also said that sanitation and hygiene are especially difficult during their periods, and that camp authorities provide few supplies such as sanitary pads.
In some cases, officials had failed to identify vulnerable women and girls, as Greek laws require, and to refer them to appropriate support services and accommodation. They include pregnant women and women who have recently given birth, survivors of sexual and other serious physical or psychological violence, trafficking victims, and people with disabilities.
Such vulnerable people are also entitled to exemption from the accelerated asylum border procedures and returns to Turkey under the EU-Turkey deal, and to be given priority for transfer to the mainland, where more services are available. Human Rights Watch has previously documented indirect pressure from the EU on aid agencies and Greek authorities to minimize the number of people categorized as vulnerable and eligible for priority treatment. Human Rights Watch interviewed women who clearly meet the vulnerability criteria but had not been given that status, including two who were nine months pregnant and sleeping on the ground in tents, and four who had informed authorities that they are survivors of rape, trafficking, or other gender-based violence.
Greek authorities, with EU support, should promptly investigate reports of harassment and violence in Moria and take urgent action to ensure that asylum-seeking women and girls can move freely around the hotspot and safely and securely access all of its facilities. There should be separate, secure shelter for women and girls traveling alone, and separate, secure, accessible, and hygienic toilets and bathing facilities that ensure privacy for men and women. Authorities should provide adequate lighting and identify and monitor high-risk areas.
The recent announcement by Greece that 5, asylum seekers will be moved from the islands to the mainland by December 15 as an emergency decongestion measure is a positive development, Human Rights Watch said.
A total of 2, people had been transferred from early December through December But this measure is not sufficient to alleviate the overcrowding or address the systemic issues linked to the containment policy that have created this emergency situation. The Greek government should end the containment policy on the islands, including for women and girls, and, with the support of the EU and the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, transfer asylum seekers to the mainland, and provide adequate accommodation.
Greek authorities are aware of overcrowding, poor hygiene and sanitation, and protection risks in Moria but have not acted to rectify the problems, both officials and aid workers interviewed at Moria told Human Rights Watch. Greece should also ratify the Istanbul Convention , a Council of Europe treaty on prevention of and response to violence against women, which guarantees protections and services for all women and girls regardless of residency status.
Greece signed the Convention in May but has yet to ratify it. What has happened to you? She said that fellow asylum seekers in Moria regularly harass and abuse her because of her sexual orientation and because she does not wear feminine clothing.
She said that one male asylum seeker from Afghanistan threatened and assaulted her repeatedly: Several asylum seekers in the section for women and girls said that unaccompanied boys in an adjoining section or other males in the camp scale the fence between sections, and that they regularly come in and around the section at night, often drinking or using drugs. Amal, 47, from Syria, said she reported the behavior to camp management, but to no avail. You are dealing with men, with drunks, with everything.
Wahida, 15, from Afghanistan, described a lawless atmosphere: Sadia, 36, from Afghanistan, lives in Moria with her son and three daughters, ages 9 to If you have to, you wake up another woman [to go with you].
Both women said they had requested flashlights from the management but had not received them. Vulnerable Women and Girls Under Greek law, pregnant women, new mothers, and survivors of sexual and gender based violence and trafficking are among those categorized as vulnerable and requiring access to special protection.
Human Rights Watch has previously documented the failure of Greek authorities and supporting partners to identify vulnerable people, and the lack of access to urgently-needed mental health care and psychosocial support for all asylum seekers on the Greek islands.
Human Rights Watch interviewed women at Moria who clearly meet the vulnerability criteria but had not been classified as such by Greek authorities, including four survivors of rape, trafficking, and other gender-based violence. Farah, 42, said she fled Iran when her family threatened her for marrying someone from a different ethnic group, and that a smuggler raped her en route to Greece. She said she disclosed her experience, including the rape, to a government psychologist when she arrived on Lesbos, but the psychologist did not categorize her as vulnerable.
She attempted suicide at Moria by swallowing prescription medications but was not relocated or provided psychological care. I went to the psychologist. She said I need to make an appointment. They gave me an appointment for January . She said that she disclosed full details of the harassment at Moria, as well as her previous experiences of persecution based on her sexual orientation, during her asylum interview in July. She also said she had sought help from a social assistant at Moria, telling the person about the recurrent harassment and threats and that she needed to be transferred elsewhere.
As of mid-November, she remained at Moria. Pregnancy Human Rights Watch interviewed three pregnant women in Moria, and one who was pregnant upon arrival but suffered a miscarriage soon after.
Two women who were nine months pregnant were sleeping on the ground in tents. Her previous pregnancy ended in a stillbirth. I am afraid I will fall. The family uses one of their three allotted blankets to cover the ground, and shares the other two for warmth.
With winter approaching, Rasha said, she was suffering from the cold: Neither woman had received comprehensive pre-natal medical care or had information about whom to contact when she went into labor or where she could deliver her baby. A third woman, who was five months pregnant and whose five previous pregnancies ended in miscarriages, said that doctors at a Lesbos hospital told her she needed specialized medical care in Athens for her high-risk pregnancy.
She continued to live in a tent in Moria for one month, and though she had been transferred to a site with better conditions on Lesbos, she had still not been relocated to Athens or seen medical specialists. Poor Hygiene, Sanitation All of the women and girls interviewed said that they did not feel safe using toilets and showers in Moria, and that the facilities are unsanitary, unhygienic, and insecure. Mariam, 21, from Syria, said that because of the distance to other toilets, men and women living in her area were sharing one toilet without a secure door.
Wahida, 15, from Afghanistan said that the toilet near the tent she shared with her mother, four sisters, and one brother was too dirty to use, but that other toilets are difficult to access.
It is 50 meters uphill and my mother has a knee problem, so it is too difficult for her. The lack of toilets for overcrowded shelters leads to open defecation in non-toilet facilities.
Wahida said the tent she lives in with her family was meant for 10 people but houses She and other women and girls said that people defecate in the showers, and there is increased risk of exposure to human feces, especially for females, due to lack of privacy in the shelters.
Wahida said that the only place to change clothes in private is in the dirty showers: They said that the difficulty of bathing and changing and washing clothing, caused skin conditions and gynecological infections.
They described symptoms including skin irritation, itching, and burning during urination. Menstrual Hygiene Some women and girls said there had previously been distributions of sanitary pads, but that these ceased around September.
Others said they were given sanitary pads only once or twice after arriving on Lesbos. Wahida, 15, from Afghanistan, said that having her period is very difficult due to the lack of clean and easily accessible toilets with running water, and a dearth of supplies. Djamila, 13, from Syria, said she had not yet received cash assistance and had to ask other asylum seekers for sanitary pads.
They said that, during their periods, they carry water to their shelters every day to wash their clothing, and use the toilets even if they are not clean or easily accessible. Legal Obligations; International Standards Under Greek law, nine categories of people, including pregnant women, unaccompanied children, victims of torture, survivors of sexual or gender-based violence, and people with disabilities are considered vulnerable or at-risk.
The law grants them special protection, including access to services, and exempts them from the accelerated admissibility process under the EU-Turkey deal. They are entitled to priority in the regular Greek asylum system and, transfer to the mainland, where they could more easily access services.
The Greek Reception and Identification Service, staffed by government doctors, psychologists and social workers, is responsible for identifying and registering people in vulnerable groups upon their arrival. The Sphere project, which sets international standards for hunaitarian assistance, calls for safe and equal access to water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities for everyone in the affected population, including private, secure toilets and bathing areas for women.
International guidelines on prevention of and response to gender-based violence in emergencies call for mitigating the risk of gender-based violence from the earliest stages of crisis response, including by providing sufficient lighting in all communal spaces; separate, private, and secure toilets and bathing facilities for men and women; and separate, secure accommodation for unaccompanied women and children. Authorities should also ensure appropriate mechanisms for reporting violence and harassment; promptly investigate and respond to complaints; and identify and monitor areas in displacement sites where there is high risk of gender-based violence and take needed security measures.
Under the Minimum Initial Services Package MISP for reproductive health in emergencies , displaced populations and relevant service providers should have information about how to access health services that can manage both normal and complicated pregnancy and delivery. Women in late-stage pregnancy should receive clean-delivery kits for home births if delivery in a clinic or hospital setting is not available. Referral systems for emergency obstetric care should be established in the initial stages of an emergency, and pregnant women and health providers should know how to get such care.
Response from Authorities Greek authorities are aware of overcrowding, poor hygiene and sanitation, and protection risks in Moria but have not acted to rectify the problems. In a meeting with Human Rights Watch in late September, , an official responsible for managing Moria acknowledged that the hotspot is well over capacity and said he had asked the central authorities repeatedly to transfer asylum seekers to the mainland before the onset of winter, but in vain.
Also in early October, Human Rights Watch researchers testified before Greek parliament about the conditions in Moria, including problems for people with disabilities. In response, the parliamentary committee on October 4 adopted a resolution to make an official visit and investigate the situation.
As of December 15, the visit had not taken place, nor had a date been announced. International aid organizations, including UNHCR, have repeatedly denounced the unsanitary, unhygienic, and unsafe conditions in Moria. One humanitarian aid worker who had worked with two different organizations inside Moria said that she left her job in September due to the inhumane conditions she witnessed and the lack of response when authorities were informed of instances of attempted suicide, self-harm, sexual exploitation, and physical assault inside the hotspot.