Migrant women and girls face harassment in Greek refugee camp

Photo credit: Greek Reporter. A female migrant in Greece.

TMP – 09/01/2018

Human Rights Watch has accused Greek authorities of failing to provide adequate protection for women and girls living in facilities for asylum seekers on the Greek island of Lesvos.

The NGO interviewed 25 migrant women and girls living in the Moria camp on Lesvos. They described the harassment, threat of violence from men and health risks they face in the camp.

Human Rights Watch believes these risks are the consequence of insufficient security, poor hygiene and sanitation facilities, and failures in the system to identify and address the needs of vulnerable people.

The women and girls interviewed described pervasive sexual harassment and a persistent sense of insecurity in Moria, and said authorities 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.

Concerns about safety and inadequate facilities hinder women and girls’ access to toilets and showers. Female migrants said that the toilets and showers in Moria are not secure or private, and that they fear going alone. “We tell someone to come with us or we don’t wash ourselves,” said a 15-year-old girl.

Greek authorities are aware of the overcrowding, poor hygiene and sanitation, and protection risks in Moria, but have not acted to rectify the problems, officials and aid workers interviewed at Moria told Human Rights Watch.

In some cases, officials have failed to identify vulnerable women and girls and refer them to appropriate support services and accommodation. This includes 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.

“The risks to women’s health and safety in Moria are dire, and as winter arrives, they will only get worse,” said Hillary Margolis, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.