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Conditions Rapidly Deteriorating for Children Detained in Moria Camp on Lesvos

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FAIRFIELD, CT (April 3, 2016) — Save the Children expressed deep concern today over the deplorable conditions in Moria detention center on the Greek island of Lesvos, where more than 1,000 children, many traveling alone, are detained as part of the EU-Turkey deal.

In addition to concerns around the detention of asylum seekers, the agency is also shocked by the lack of safeguards in place for those likely to be returned to Turkey in less than 24 hours. It calls on European leaders to urgently rethink their proposal and suspend all transfers to Turkey until there is a guarantee that those in need of international protection will receive it.

“The situation inside Moria detention center is deteriorating rapidly,” said Simona Mortolini, Save the Children Team Leader in Greece. “We have spoken to families and children who are sleeping outside on the cold ground on thin blankets because there is nowhere else for them to sleep in the overcrowded accommodation facilities. The camp was initially designed to host a few hundred people transiting through within a day. It now hosts 3,300 people, many have been trapped there for more than a week.”

“People continue to arrive to the island and the number of families detained in the center continues to increase by the day. It is extremely dangerous for children and we are worried about their physical and mental well-being, especially those children travelling alone.”

“There are reports of protests and people have told us they will commit suicide if they are sent back to Turkey. Some said they will jump off the boats. People are absolutely desperate. They have sold all their worldly possessions to pay for the journey from Turkey to Greece, they already risked their lives at sea to make the crossing. There is nothing left for them to return to – in Turkey or in their countries of origin that are marred by wars and widespread violence and insecurity.”

As part of the new EU-Turkey deal, which came into effect on 20 March, newly-arrived vulnerable children and their families, regardless of their status, have been detained in closed facilities on the Greek islands until their individual interview and assessment take place – which could take weeks or months.

There are reports Greek authorities will start returning people to Turkey from tomorrow morning. Yet, it is unclear who will be on the boats and if they have had their claims for asylum properly assessed and given the chance for appeal.

“Save the Children believes that the way in which the EU-Turkey deal is being implemented is illegal and inhumane. The deal risks undermining the very principle of international protection for vulnerable people fleeing war and persecution,” Mortolini said.

“EU leaders need to suspend returns to Turkey until they put in place the necessary legal and procedural safeguards that ensure human rights are maintained.”

Save the Children launched a response in Greece last year and has so far helped more than 340,000 children and adults with essential support including food, hygiene items, shelter materials and clothes. We also provide safe spaces for children to play and learn, and areas for mothers to breastfeed and ensure their babies are receiving the right nutrients. Save the Children is scaling up its programs in Athens and the northern border regions to meet the needs of the thousands stranded there.

Save the Children invests in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.