Médecins Sans Frontières International
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) would like to draw your attention to an important factor influencing migrants and refugees’ health: migration control. Our teams witness the harm being done on people’s safety and health by policies aiming to deter, contain and forcibly return migrants. Such policies limit the impact of any health intervention.
It is the third winter since the EU-Turkey Statement trapped thousands of asylum seekers on Greek islands. On Lesvos, more than 5.000 people remain crammed in and around the Moria “hotspot”, built for 3.100, with 2.700 people living in tents despite freezing temperatures. People are falling sick due to the living conditions and exposed to chronic insecurity. The mental health impact is devastating. We see patients with symptoms of psychosis, severe PTSD and depression. Alarmingly, children also self-harm and have suicidal thoughts. Amongst the 223 child patients referred to MSF in 2018, 6 aged 6 to 18 attempted suicide.
On Nauru, where Australia implements offshore detention, MSF has provided mental health care to 208 asylum seekers and refugees between 2017 and 2018. Close to one-third of these patients attempted suicide, while 12 were diagnosed with the rare psychiatric condition of ‘resignation syndrome’. Data shows that the mental health suffering on Nauru is among the worst MSF has ever seen, including in projects caring for torture survivors.
Our patients on these islands are today at risk because of States’ decision to use them as an example for others. The majority did not arrive with such severe mental health symptoms; it is the loss of dignity, the constant violence and insecurity, the uncertainty about their future and containment - all resulting from the policy - that are creating this very severe deterioration.
These policies must be banned from State practices.