Refugees with Disabilities Not Taken into Consideration in Camps

Refugees with Disabilities Not Taken into Consideration in Camps

Lesvos, Greece – Refugees with disabilities do not have equal access to services in transition camps in Greece. Although the European Union provided substantial funding to the Greek government, local NGOs and to the United Nations, camps are still inadequate to host refugees with disabilities.

Edris, a 52-year-old refugee from Afghanistan, lost his two legs in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan. He is now living at the Kara Tepe refugee camp on Lesvos Island in Greece. Edris complains that he has difficulties moving around the camp independently with his wheelchair due to the rocks, gravels and mud on the ground. “I feel trapped in this camp” Edris said.  He also explains that he has troubles going to the toilets because in Kara Tepe, there are mostly squat toilets, and it is also hard for him to reach the showers as there is a step at the entrance of the shower area.

“I feel trapped in this camp”

– Edris (refugee from Afghanistan)

 

Squat toilets in Kara Tepe refugee camp. Photo credit: Anais Wardak
Showers with steps in Kara Tepe camp. Photo credit: Anais Wardak
Overall bathrooms in Kara Tepe camp. Photo credit: Anais Wardak

Although a lot of camps have toilets and showers, they often don’t have ramps and are inadequate for wheelchairs. Rocky terrain and long distance prevent many people with disabilities to reach them.

Ghazal, a young woman from Afghanistan told me her 72-year-old dad was given a wheelchair in Moria camp, but he cannot use it because of the rocks and gravels on the floor.

 

Boxes in which people live in at Kara Tepe camp and gravels on the ground. Photo credit: Anais Wardak

It is astonishing that people with disabilities are being overlooked and not taken into consideration in camps, especially since they are considered “at-risk.” Many people who fled war, torture and terrorism now have disabilities, but aid agencies fail to respond effectively due to a lack of understanding of people’s needs.

In addition, there are not enough doctors on the camps, and mental health services are much needed for people victims of trauma, anxiety and depression as a result of the violence they experienced in their home countries.

“I need help”

– Arvin (female refugee from Syria)

 

Arvin, a 24-year-old refugee from Syria has daily severe panic attacks. She spends most of her days being in and out of consciousness, has difficulties breathing when she feels overwhelmed and starts trembling. “I need help” she told me. According to her, she needs to talk to a psychologist, but there are none at the Kara Tepe camp where she currently lives. Her mother explained that when she talks to doctors on the camp, they either give painkillers or sleeping pills, but nothing that would actually help.

Since 2015, the European Commission has given millions to the Greek government, aid agencies and international organizations to assist refugees in need and to improve living conditions at the camps, but the Greek government and the UNHCR have been strongly criticized for their failure of using the funds. Those funds were supposed to ensure that every single refugee had access to basic needs, including people with disabilities. However, healthy people and those with disabilities still do not have equal access to assistance and services that are provided in the camps. Failure to provide equal access to basic needs such as sanitation, housing, schools and medical facilities to all refugees in camps is discriminatory and violates the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

 

Written by Anais Wardak, a volunteer Project Coordinator at Asylum Links EU. Anais worked and lived in France, Switzerland, USA, UK, China, Afghanistan and Greece. She holds a MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development and a BA in Global Affairs. She wrote her master dissertation on mobility and transnational networks and focused primarily on the case of Afghan male refugees. She volunteered with many organizations to help refugees in France, UK and Greece. 

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Living in Constant Fear: Refugee Women in Camps

Living in Constant Fear: Refugee Women in Camps

 

Toilets at Kara Tepe camp where sexual assaults sometimes take place. Photo credit: Anais Wardak

 

Lesvos, Greece – Rosa, a young medical student from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was raped, tortured and imprisoned in her country due to her participation in a pacific march against the government. After returning home from the march, the military found her home and broke in around midnight. Soldiers not only killed her 9-month-old boy and her father in law with a machete in front of her eyes, but they also raped her in front of her husband and her son’s dead body. She was then taken to jail for 4 months where she was victim of daily sexual violence before escaping.

After being tortured and raped for months, and having no family left, Rosa decided to seek safety in Europe. She now lives in constant fear in a transit refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece. Throughout her long journey to Greece by land and by sea, Rosa got robbed and assaulted, but she was still hoping to find safety and peace in Europe.

Rosa, in fact, is just one of the many women who fled harm and persecution and who hoped to find a better future. However, many of those women face new fears of violence and sexual harassment in the camps, particularly in the “hot spots” of the Greek Islands.

 

“I left hell to find another hell”

– Fereshta (refugee woman from Afghanistan)

 

Many women who did not feel safe in their home country do not feel safe in Greece either. Fereshta, who is a young refugee woman from Afghanistan, told me she was scared to leave her tent at night or go to the bathroom because she has heard so many stories of women being raped within Moria refugee camp. However, one night, a man broke into her tent and assaulted her. She told me, “I left hell to find another hell.”

At the Moria refugee camp particularly, both men and women live together under the same tents, which is very threatening to women and children. The cohabitation of strangers inside small tents creates high levels of risks and tensions. Because of the harsh conditions of the camp and because of what people have gone through, they become violent towards one another. There are countless numbers of verbal and sexual assaults every single day.

Last week, Rosa and Fereshta both moved from Moria to Kara Tepe refugee camp, which is almost considered a “5-star camp” compared to Moria. Women and men are separated unless they are a family; there are gender-segregated toilets, as well as showers with doors; and volunteers and guards from different organizations patrol 24/7 within the camp to make sure everything goes smoothly. Those are all measures taken to prevent sexual violence and to increase the security of female refugees.

 

Boxes in which refugees live in Kara Tepe camp. Fereshta lives in one of those boxes among 9 other women.
Photo credit: Anais Wardak

 

However, despite those security measures, women still do not feel safe and a lot of them are subject to panic attacks in camps due to an overwhelming feeling of anxiety. Fereshta for example is still too scared to leave her room at night – and what I mean by “room” is a container in which about 9 other women sleep in, sometimes even on hard floors. If Fereshta has to go to the toilets at night, she just does it in her room in a bucket because of her fear to go outside at night.

Unfortunately, a lot of women who have been victim of rape and sexual assault in camps are reluctant to come forward and talk about it because they are scared the bureaucratic procedures will take too long and they don’t want to be “stuck in the camp forever”, as Rosa said. Thus, a lot of victims prefer to keep quiet and move on, in order to be transferred as quickly as possible.

 

Written by Anais Wardak, a volunteer Project Coordinator at Asylum Links EU. Anais worked and lived in France, Switzerland, USA, UK, China, Afghanistan and Greece. She holds a MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development and a BA in Global Affairs. She wrote her master dissertation on mobility and transnational networks and focused primarily on the case of Afghan male refugees. She volunteered with many organizations to help refugees in France, UK and Greece. 

 

If you would like to get involved, you can join our group of volunteers. With your support, we will continue to provide this service.