Press Release – 24 January 2017

New data highlights human rights violations faced by refugees in Greece

Refugees in Greek camps face human rights violations on a daily basis, and the NGOs that support them desperately need more resources and funding, according to an independent study by Refugee Rights Data Project. The same study also raises serious concerns about the health and safety of refugee women seeking protection in Europe.

45.3% of refugees surveyed don’t feel safe in Greek camps. 82.9% have experienced police violence in Greece. 73% have suffered from health problems. 69% of women don’t have a secure lock on their shelter, and 88% of women don’t know where they can access contraception. Meanwhile, 59% of service providers feel they don’t have the resources necessary to deal with some of the most alarming issues such as gender-based violence.

These striking figures feature in two new reports released today by Refugee Rights Data Project (RRDP).

  • Life In Limbo investigates human rights issues experienced by residents living in camps in Greece, and identifies solutions to these problems.
  • Hidden Struggles (produced in partnership with Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Denise Charlton Associates) takes an in-depth look at the issues faced by displaced women and girls, and recommends action that must be taken to ensure their safety and security.

The results are particularly alarming given the freezing temperatures in Greece at the moment. They also cast grave doubts on the viability of Germany’s announcement that it will begin returning asylum-seeking refugees to Greece in mid-March 2017.

Marta Welander, director of RRDP, says:

“Thousands are trapped in limbo in Greece, waiting for their asylum applications to be processed or their relocation to be progressed. Our new data demonstrates that the camps they live in remain unsafe and under-resourced, critically undermining the human rights of refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe. Our research findings relating to women in displacement are particularly alarming, and call for immediate action – both on the ground and at policy-level – to save lives, and reduce the harmful impact on refugees’ physical and psychological wellbeing.”

Nusha Yonkova, field researcher and anti-trafficking manager of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, says:

“The report ‘Hidden Struggles’ points clearly to the recommended solutions. There must be practical improvements to the Greek camps to make them more women-friendly, including improved safety features. Improvements must also be made to the healthcare available to women in the camps. And finally we need to call on our political leaders both nationally and within the EU to deliver policy changes to ensure the experience of women asylum seekers is improved throughout the process.”

Snapshot of the reports' key findings:

Report 1 - Life in Limbo

Survey conducted with 278 refugees, both men and women, in a number of camps on mainland Greece in early November 2016.

  • 28.6% didn’t have enough water to shower and wash themselves (p39).
  • 58.5% can’t wash with warm water (p39).
  • 39.3% said their shelter leaks water when it rains (p37).
  • 45.3% said they ‘don’t feel safe at all’ or ‘’don’t feel very safe’ in the camp (p19).
  • 73.4% didn’t have a secure lock on their shelter (p38).
  • 17.1% had experienced violence by police (p22).
  • 31.6% knew of at least one death in the camp (p16).
  • 80% had been in Greece for eight months to more than a year (p60).
  • 75.4% did not have access to information about their rights and opportunities (p64).
  • 96.4% said Greece was not the country they would like to live in (p62).
  • 52.5% wanted to carry on to a different country in order to join family (p64).

Report 2 - Hidden Struggles

Research conducted, in partnership with Immigrant Council of Ireland and Denise Charlton Associates, via two surveys in camps on mainland Greece in November 2016:

1) Private, semi-structured interviews with 38 refugee women, specifically focusing on adversities faced by women and girls in displacement.

2) Survey conducted with 58 staff members and volunteers working for organisations providing services in and around camps.

  • 43.2% of women had been detained during their journey, some while pregnant (p11).
  • 65.5% of women knew of women who had experienced physical violence in the camp (p41).
  • 40% of women did not feel it was safe to send their children to school or to activities in the camp (p32).
  • 89.2% of women said they ‘always feel anxious’ or ‘feel anxious most of the time’ in the camp, while 81.1% said they ‘always feel depressed’ or ‘feel depressed most of the time’ (p22).
  • 88% of women did not know where they could access contraception (p50).
  • 37.8% of women didn’t feel safe going to the toilet (p29).
  • Violence identified by service providers in camps included domestic violence, harassment, early forced marriage, sexual violence against adults and minors, rape, forced prostitution and trafficking (p42).
  • 59% of service providers felt they don’t personally have sufficient information about the services / mechanisms in place to deal with sexual and gender-based violence and/or reproductive health in the camp (p45).
  • 33% of service providers said they were not sufficiently protected, or did not know if they were protected, against reported suspected/actual sexual and/or gender-based violence taking place in the camp (p45).

Short-term recommendations include:

  • Ensure that female interpreters are available, specifically for medical and protection services (p63).
  • Ensure that all camps have a clearly demarcated protection mechanism for matters relating to sexual and gender-based violence and child protection (p64).
  • Ensure that the lead service providers handling sexual and reproductive health services in each camp are sufficiently resourced to deliver the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for Reproductive Health, as per the Istanbul Convention (p64).

Policy recommendations include:

  • Increase the speed at which asylum claims are expedited in Greece, reducing the length of time that women are trapped in unhealthy and harmful environments (p64).
  • Ensure that sufficient statutory funding is made available to ensure adequate legal, medical and support services, and protection frameworks are in place across all camps (p64).

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. For more information, please visit

About the Immigrant Council of Ireland

The Immigrant Council of Ireland is the leading voice in securing improved rights and protections which benefit Irish citizens, migrants and their families. Founded by Sr Stanislaus Kennedy in 2001, the Immigrant Council of Ireland uses its frontline services including the information and referral service; the anti-racism hotline; anti-trafficking and integration support work and the Law Centre to meet the immediate needs of immigrants in Ireland. The organisation uses this experience to put forward clear, evidence based proposals to change Irish law. For more information, please visit

Contact Details

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Natalie Stanton
Deputy Director and Communications Coordinator
T: 07817 380 897