Research finds Chios at breaking point: Humanitarian aid and support services must be strengthened, not withdrawn
New research by Refugee Rights Data Project (RRDP) finds that the island of Chios, Greece is at breaking point. With the continued arrival of refugees from conflict ridden countries, the island is currently overcrowded and struggles to provide some of the most basic services required. In partnership with the Refugee Info Bus, RRDP’s team of field researchers interviewed 300 people (approximately 10% of the refugees on the island) on 11-18 May 2017.
Our key findings include:
- The average time respondents had spent in Chios was 3.2 months. Alarmingly, some 6.67% had been there for a year or longer. Many respondents expressed desperation at ‘being stuck’ in Chios, as they were not able to get any progress update on their cases or any indication of when they might be transferred to the mainland.
- Nearly two thirds (60.7%) of refugees had been unable to access services in Chios. For those who had gained access, it often involved little more than receiving basic nutrition or an item of clothing, rather than more substantive support.
- Similarly, the safety and security measures provided for refugees seem wholly inadequate, with 85.3% of respondents saying they ‘never feel safe’ or ‘don’t feel safe’ in Chios.
- Out of the staggering 71.3% who had experienced health problems since arriving in Chios, less than a third (28.5%) had been able to access medical care.
- Living conditions are largely inadequate in many places, with 40.8% of respondents stating that their health issues had started due to the unhealthy environment in the camp.
- About a third (31%) said they were experiencing mental health problems. One of the most oft-cited reasons for mental health issues was the uncertainty of the outcome of one’s asylum applications and long waiting times. Many feared deportation and found it difficult to sleep at night in face of such uncertainty.
- 39% of respondents had witnessed someone die in Chios. Some of these deaths had occurred due to self-harm or suicide.
- The current lack of support and services is hence highly alarming, particularly considering that the majority of refugees on the island are escaping war and turmoil in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
What the respondents told us:
- “We are here since March 2016, but no-one can help us because there are no translators for us” – Pakistani man living in Souda with his family
- “We are afraid of leaving our tent, since anybody could just come here and steal all our stuff” – Woman living with her husband on the waterfront in Souda
- “For the rest of my life, I will always remember how humiliated and badly treated I was here.” – Young Iranian man
- “I got rejected and they say they will deport me. But even to get deported I need to wait for another three months. I’m so tired of waiting. I’m considering killing myself instead.” – Afghan man in his early twenties
- “I don’t care to which country I will go, I just want to live in peace and dignity.” – Syrian man
In light of RRDP's findings, and given that Chios is at present the island that receives the largest number of new arrivals in Greece, the news of humanitarian organisations withdrawing from the island in June 2017 appears critically misguided. RRDP and the Refugee Info Bus call on all parties to review and reverse the decision to withdraw services, and to speed up transfers to mainland Greece.
Full summary report can be accessed here (http://wp.me/a7NuvY-mX)
Johanna Puhakka, RRDP research coordinator, said:
“Our research indicates that Chios is currently at breaking point. This small island is overcrowded, and the organisations and agencies operating there are clearly struggling to provide some of the most basic services required. The decision of humanitarian organisations to withdraw from the island in June therefore appears critically misguided and needs to be urgently reconsidered.”
Muhannad Al Joma of Refugee Info Bus, said:
“The health, safety and human rights of the displaced people arriving in Chios must be our highest priority right now. Increased resources and services need to be allocated – not reduced. Any further withdrawals of services will have a detrimental and inhumane effect on people’s lives in Chios, given that this island is indeed, at breaking point. If new services are not introduced, then transfers off of Chios and onto the mainland must be sped up. Moving families and vulnerable people off the island must be an urgent priority.”
About Refugee Rights Data Project
Refugee Rights Data Project (RRDP) is a non-governmental human rights organisation and UK registered charity. We aim to fill information gaps relating to refugees and displaced people in Europe by conducting our own independent field research. Our organisation is run by individuals spanning a broad range of sectors and backgrounds. We are independent of any political ideology or religion, united by our commitment to defend the human rights of some of the world’s most vulnerable groups of people.