Alarming Figures Concerning Sexual Violence in Greek Refugee Camps

Vathy Reception and Identification Centre located in the Aegean Island of Samos. Vathy Reception and Identification Centre located in the Aegean Island of Samos. UNHCR/Yorgos Kyvernitis

14 February 2018
UNHCR spokesperson reports on Sexual and Gender-based Violence Incidents in Reception Centres for Refugees in the Aegean Islands.

During a press briefing taken place in Geneva on February 9, Cécile Pouilly – spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – reported alarming figures on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Greek Reception and Identification Centres (RICs). She highlighted that, in 2017 only, 622 SGBV incidences were reported on the Greek Aegean islands and that 28 per cent of them were perpetrated on Greek soil. These figures are likely to be an underestimation, considering the number of unreported cases that has to be taken into account when dealing with SGBV.

SGBV is not a new phenomenon in reception centres in Greece, with reported cases dating back to 2016. The overwhelming majority of victims of sexual violence are women and children (especially young girls) who fear daily for their security in the RICs. A striking example of this insecurity is provided by the testimony of a woman who declared to not having taken a shower for two months out of fear of being attacked in the sanitary facilities. During the press briefing, Pouilly did not touch upon the profile of the perpetrators, who were in the past identified among both volunteers and fellow refugees.

Risk factors of SGBV are increased by the overcrowding conditions of RICs and the consequent inadequacy of camp structures. In fact, the most hit centres are the ones of Moira and Vathy – in the islands of Lesbos and Samos respectively – that are currently hosting a number of refugees more than double their capacity.

The UNHCR welcomes the measures already taken by the Greek Government to reduce overcrowding e.g. accelerated transfers to mainland, and calls for further action in this direction such as ensuring gender separation in camps, security and lighting in washing areas, increased security and the presence of specialized staff to address SGBV.


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