Human Rights Watch on Thursday raised grave concerns over the combined confinement of asylum-seeking women and men who are not related in reception and detention migrant centres in Greece.
According to a statement by Human Rights Watch, the central government has not provided authorities in northern Greece with sufficient resources to respond to a surge in arrivals over the land border with Turkey, which led to women being frequently housed with unrelated men in migrant centres.
The watchdog called on Athens to urgently stop the practice, which puts female migrants at risk of psychological distress and sexual harassment.
“Women and girls should not be confined with men who are complete strangers, even for a day. These women and girls came to Greece seeking security and protection, and instead they are living in fear.
“Greek authorities need to put an urgent stop to this, and grant them the security, privacy and dignity they deserve,” Hillary Margolis, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said.
Based on accounts from asylum seekers, the watchdog noted that women suffered severe psychological distress as a result, including suicidal thoughts, with some of them facing sexual assaults.
The watchdog stressed that the practice ran contrary to national, European law and international standards, which require that men and women be held separately in detention, “unless they are members of the same family and consent to being held together.”
In conclusion, the watchdog urged the Greek authorities to provide single women and unaccompanied children with separate accommodation, including toilets and bathing facilities in all immigration detention sites.
The rights group also called on Athens to establish a confidential means to report sexual harassment and promptly probe such incidents.
Since 2015, Europe has been experiencing its worst migration crisis in recent history, struggling to accommodate hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing hostilities in Middle Eastern and North African countries, with Greece, Italy, and Spain being the main entry points.