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)
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.
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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