Aid agencies have been warning about the mounting desperation among refugees trapped in Greece, yet nothing could have prepared the world for the tragic news of an asylum seeker's apparent suicide at the country's largest port.
As it stands, about 62,000 refugees and migrants remain trapped in Greece, unable to reach Europe or other destinations because of the deal between the European Union and Turkey.
While this deal promises to increase the number of refugees being accepted into European countries, it has had the effect of actually capping the number of refugees. It has also caused a greater number of refugees waiting on an answer to their asylum requests to be sent back to Turkey. As a result, many are “stuck” in Turkey or in places like Greece, unable to carry on with their journey and unable to seek employment or find useful things to do with their time.
As smugglers' boats continue to work around the clock, bringing greater numbers of refugees to Greece over the Aegean Sea, quotas are continuously refused by European nations. But that's not the only problem, as transfers to Turkey are also running behind schedule, the Independent confirms.
In February 2016, two Pakistani men attempted to hang themselves from a tree in public, but as this most recent case receives more attention from the media, many people are beginning to question whether refugees are being given a fair shot.
According to Sacha Myers, a spokesperson for Save the Children, the charity is “deeply saddened” by the story of the young asylum seeker taking his own life.
“Many [refugees in Greece] have been living in deplorable conditions for months now, with limited access to basic services like education or healthcare, and waiting for the resolution of their asylum claims.
The constant stress, uncertainty, and anxiety are driving many asylum seekers to the edge.”
The organization has found that children as young as nine were displaying signs of self-harm while 12-year-olds were attempting suicide. Currently, more than 5,000 minors are living in deplorable conditions, further worsening the mounting mental health crisis that has been jeopardizing an entire generation in places like Syria.
Locations where many asylum seekers wait for an update on their status, such as transit centers or refugee tents or shipping containers located in Greek islands, are also well over capacity, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warns. As cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) become more common among communities of people fleeing war in the Middle East, the threat of suicide waves becomes even more real, begging the question: Shouldn't the United States be more involved in helping refugees?
After all, it was the United States that triggered a series of incidents that helped to shape the Middle East as it is today with the 2003 invasion of Iraq. We bear some responsibility and should act accordingly.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Alkis Konstantinidis