Hundreds of migrants on the Greek island of Kos have been locked inside an open-air stadium without water, food or toilets – prompting a charity to accuse overwhelmed authorities of “state abuse”, Sky News reports. More than 7,000 refugees, mainly from Syria and Afghanistan, arrived on the island in July – a two-fold increase on June – and officials have been accused of using “heavy-handed force against these vulnerable people”.
According to Medecins sans Frontieres, police have been evicting migrants from public areas in Kos, even stopping them from sitting on park benches. Aid workers claim many families, some with young children, are instead being told to stand “under the blaring sun” in temperatures of 32C (90F) for hours on end – in the hope they will secure the paperwork they need to travel to Athens before heading through mainland Europe.
A day after police were seen using batons and fire extinguishers to disperse crowds, one refugee in the stadium claimed officers had beaten children. Most of the migrants are hoping to seek asylum in Germany, Scandinavia or the Netherlands – and will travel through the Balkans to get there. Brice de la Vingne, a director for MSF, said: “The Kos authorities have clearly stated they have no intention of improving the situation for these people, as they believe that this would constitute a ‘pull factor’.
“But the truth is that people fleeing war will keep on coming whether or not the authorities are trying to stop them from doing so.” The MSF has said it is trying to identify people inside the stadium who are in urgent need of medical attention, so they can receive treatment outside. Its team is also erecting shadow netting to give the migrants some shade. Last week, a Save the Children report warned migrant and refugee children in Greece were “at risk of trafficking, sexual exploitation and physical abuse”.
Some young people have described being too frightened to sleep outside or use the bathroom at night, and many hadn’t eaten in days. One English graduate who managed to make the crossing to Kos said “Aleppo is the worst city in the world” – and described how his house in the warring Syrian region had been destroyed by a rocket blast. “There was no electricity, no water, no Internet. I was so happy to be alive that I took a selfie,” he added.
Many refugees and economic migrants have to make several attempts before they reach Greece, as Turkish officials try to stop them from leaving.For people travelling by sea, Greece has become the main gateway to Europe in recent months – with continued fighting in Libya making the route from North Africa to Italy even more dangerous than before. However, the Greek economy is in dire straits, even though Athens managed to secure a third international bailout on Tuesday.