Lesbos: Migrants in limbo

Claire Paccalin

FRANCE 24's reporters Claire Paccalin and Zohra Ben Miloud explore what humanitarian organisations are calling a mental health crisis among migrants and refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos. They say the 5,000 people living in Moria Reception and Identification Centre, a camp run by the Greek government, are particularly affected by poor living conditions and a sense of hopelessness.


"When they arrive in Lesbos, they still see a kind of light after a very difficult experience. But then they discover the nightmare has not ended". Alessandro Barberio is one of the few psychiatrists who works on the Greek island of Lesbos, seen as a gateway to Europe by migrants and refugees crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey.

"In Moria Camp, they find themselves with a long wait and they can’t do anything about it", says Dr Barberio, who works for the humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

Most arrivals do not intend to stay on the small Greek island, they hope to head to mainland Greece and then on to wealthier European countries. But first they must apply for asylum, and many wait more than a year for their claims to be heard.

This anxious wait, combined with difficult living conditions inside Moria Camp, exacerbate traumatic experiences often suffered in migrants’ home countries and during their journeys to Europe. When they find themselves stuck in Moria Camp, a mixture of hopelessness and uncertainty can lead to mental health problems.

Young people are not spared. MSF, which runs a children’s clinic next to Moria, says it’s increasingly seeing children and teenagers who have self-harmed and are dealing with suicidal thoughts.

After escaping a war zone and making a dangerous journey across land and sea, many migrants in Lesbos have almost run out of hope.

>> Watch our Revisited show: On Greek island of Lesbos, migrants' dreams turn to disillusion

>> Read our webdocumentary: Greece's tale of two crises: ‘EU shame on you’

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