AYS 22/10: Refugee mothers cut open, stitched up and sent back to filthy camps

Research reveals systematic mistreatment of pregnant women and mothers with newborns in Greek camps. Children from Ritsona finally enter Greek school system. Another tragic day on the Mediterranean. Family with a newborn baby held in detention in Croatia. A group of 54 unaccompanied girls from Calais arrives to the UK according to the Dubs amendment.

Image for post
Image for post
Refugee mothers are one of the most vulnerable groups in Greece, but often not treated as such. Photo: A. Konstantinidis

The reproductive rights of refugees are firmly rooted in international law, but they are often neglected, if not completely disregarded on the ground. In Greece, many refugee women are forced to undergo C-section, even if they are perfectly capable of delivering their babies naturally. They are quickly stitched up and sent back to filthy camps with wounds on their bellies and crying babies in their hands. The volunteer community needs to put pressure on the authorities to provide better support to refugee mothers and their kids and we can’t do it without international support. This is why our friends from Pleiades law group led by Electra Leda Koutra have conducted an important field research about reproductive rights of refugee women in Greece, in cooperation with Human Rights in Childbirth and with the humble support of AYS. Today, we are ready to publish preliminary results and testimonies collected during the period of September/October 2016.

Many interviewed refugees have reported potentially life-threatening complications for both mother and child resulting from living conditions (including journey to reach Greece) or denied/insufficient assistance. In some cases, miscarriage resulted from denied assistance.

Image for post
Image for post

This research also reveals that 60% of refugee birthing mothers were subjected to C-section without them being informed and providing valid consent. None of the women interviewed by the volunteers were invited to question any form or decision being made for her. One of them underwent a removal of the uterus after the C-section, without ever being informed about the reason why.

Image for post
Image for post

No pain medication was given to women who did not have a CS. Among the women who were subjected to CS, only 1 was given an epidural, while the others were subjected to total anesthesia. No medical history could be taken before proceeding to anesthesia, because of a complete lack of translation. All women who had a natural birth report having asked for pain sedation (through hand gestures), but they got the feeling, from the reaction of the medical staff, that this was not an option in the case of natural birth.

Almost all of the interviewed women faced discrimination during gestation or birth. Among many reported issues, most of them have talked about inadequate accommodation, lack of safety, sanitation and hygiene, insufficient medical support, lack of female doctor personnel, no legal assistance and the worrying lack of information or inability to access information, including denied access or lack of translator.

Image for post
Image for post

Women are finding it extremely difficult to convince NGOs operating on camp to call an ambulance for their transfer to the hospital. 100% report finding it extremely difficult to return to the camp or squat, since they had no money and no relative social support. Risks and information about any interventions was never given. No information was given on possible psychosocial support and “medical directions” upon exit from hospital. Lack of interpreters is directly linked to the lack of informed consent. Women have no practical and effective remedy at hand to achieve their information during labour.

The problems they face in their place of accommodation after birth remain the same as above since the State once again did not take any action to provide them with better living conditions. Additionally, they report a lack of provision for milk and specialised food for their children that forces them once again to buy it on their own and a pronounced absence of sanitary environment for them and their kids that puts them in a great risk of infections and contagious diseases. AYS will keep on expanding on these findings, together with our colleagues from Pleiades law group.

GREECE

194 new refugees have been officially registered in Greece, including 96 on Lesvos, 78 on Samos and 20 on Kalymnos. According to volunteer sources, one boat carrying 20 refugees arrived to Skala Sikaminia north of the Lesvos island this morning (Oct 22).

Heavy rain hits Greece: refugees report floods, cold weather and wind, calls for winterization of camps

Image for post
Image for post
Distrubing photo of flooded Katsikas camp taken by Muhammad Ali from Damascus / KatsikasLive

The storm had hit the western mainland and flooded the south of Aitoloakarnania prefecture hours before heavy rain moved to the Attica region, causing flooding and infrastructural problems in Athens and surrounding areas. Tent-based refugee camps have experienced severe flooding, which will continue to be a big problem as colder weather and rain is approaching.

On their FB page, refugees from Katsikas camp have been posting regular updates, often describing the worsening of the situation due to the rain, wind and cold. Their posts included a report about an inadequate concrete structure collapsing on the baby stroller (the kid miraculously survived) due to recent heavy winds in the camp. Page administrators warn that many vulnerable cases are still living in the camp while the weather is getting worse and worse. You can find their valuable updates here.

Image for post
Image for post
Makeshift refugee shelters like these won’t survive heavier winds and rain. Photo: Lisa Campbell

In order to prevent further humanitarian catastrophe, refugees should be moved to closed facilities. But knowing how slow and ignorant the authorities often are, volunteers are urged to help winterizing the camps. This can include improving or providing better infrastructure, providing heating devices, bringing in more warm, rainproof clothes and blankets, and building draining systems in order to prevent the flooding of tents. In the nearby future, we’ll try to make a list of all of the volunteer groups dedicated to winterizing the camps and/or moving refugees to better, solid facilities.

Kids from Ritsona camp finally enter the Greek school system, locals welcome them with a song

After months of preparation the Greek government is finally able to offer formal education for refugee children in Greek school. Ritsona camp is the sixth camp involved in the schooling program. Greek school is now running afternoons from Monday through Friday. The lessons are Greek, English, Maths, Arts and IT. The students will receive a certificate outlining how many hours they have done and this will be accepted by any European education system. Therefore they can continue when they leave Greece.

Image for post
Image for post

How to help & who’s already helping:

Party for the LGBTIQ+ refugees in Athens will be held on 25th of October, in order to show solidarity and raise funds to support them. You can find more details about the event here.

Refugee Support Greece have set up a library in Alexandria camp, and Anne Braak-Katz has kicked it off with some Arabic books she’s brought over. If you want to contribute, please contact them.

Internews team has produced 40th issue of Rumors, a valuable guide through all of the misinformation that’s circulating at the moment, together with reliable explanations of the topic. You can find it here.

Fresh Response has a new shiny wan thanks to the support by Verein FAIR and IHA. The old wan Zokhi, that was provided by Michal Borkiewicz and Bartek Sińczuk, remains active. Click here to see them in action.

Three (non-killing) clowns want to go to Malakasa, but they need help connecting with volunteers and refugees of the camp. If you want to help them, please contact Chief Clown Officer on FB.

Donation of 100 parcels from Starfish Foundation was brought today to HSA warehouse in Kara Tepe. Congratulations to all of the donors and volunteers who made this big action possible!

Image for post
Image for post
100 valuable parcels have arrived to HSA warehouse in Kara Tepe today. Photo: Fred Morlet

MEDITERRANEAN

11 people, including 7 adults and 4 children, drowned during the rescue this morning according to MSF. 250 refugees were saved by SeaWatch2 vessel alone in the past 24 hours. At 8am a small wooden boat carrying a single family was located and all passengers were brought on board the Dignity1 rescue boat. At 8:30am another rubber boat arrived carrying many men & two bodies. With the deck full Dignity1 could only hand out life jackets. The Aquarius has brought 261 people on board this morning, including some rescued last night and some from a tiny wooden boat this morning.

Still no explanation for the violent attack by the Libyan coast guard in international waters.

Volunteers are still assessing yesterdays violent attack by the Libyan coast guard and see no justification for it, as they were in international waters.

Image for post
Image for post
The refugees were attacked on their way across the Mediterranean sea towards Italy. Photo: Sea Watch

Refugees survive entire day at sea off Spain

29 refugees were rescued out of Granada, Spain. They were found 57 miles from the coast in a 2 meter boat. Authorities were looking for them since Friday. The boat left from the Moroccan town Bouyafar and got stuck in the sea. It’s a miracle they managed to survive.

CROATIA

AYS visits a family with a newborn baby and two small children held in Jezevo detention site

Ježevo detention center — AYS volunteers have visited the closed detention center Ježevo, a 20 minute drive from Zagreb. In this center people who are considered to be ‘illegal migrants’ are detained until the deportation or until they seek asylum in Croatia. AYS volunteers managed to see the newly built (2016) structure within the center the construction of which is funded by EU funds money — this new structure is intended for vulnerable groups — families and unattended minors. The structure is clean and almost empty — besides a Kurdish family with 3 children age 9 y, 6y and 7 days old baby.

Image for post
Image for post
Jezevo has improved facilities for families and vulnerable groups, but it’s still a prison. Photo: M.P./PXL

Although the general impression was that the police officers and the rest of the staff act decently and with care, that the structure is clean and that there are necessary utilities available — clean rooms, joint room with a TV, 3 meals per day, social worker and a doctor (although 2 times per week only), this is a closed center with surveillance cameras, freedom of movement is limited and it is surrounded by a high wall and razor wire. Visits are aloud with the announcement in advance to the Ministry of the Interiors’ Department for borders. What is worrying is that the new structure might mean more detained minors, families and children — this fact cannot be improved even by the availability of a new, modern playground in the middle of high walls, surveillance cameras and razor wire. AYS volunteers did not see the rest of the center — the Kurdish family was allowed to meet other detained people in the other structure that hosts mainly single adults.

FRANCE

54 unaccompanied girls finally taken out of Calais, brought to Britain under the Dubs amendment

Today The ‘Unofficial’ Women and Children’s Centre worked tirelessly with the home office to get the most vulnerable group in Calais camp — the unaccompanied girls to the safety of the UK.

According to Refugee Info Bus, extra police and buses have been called to Calais today. The prefecture have informed NGO’s that the total eviction of the Jungle will start on Monday. In camp, there is an atmosphere of fear, resignation and frustration, at not knowing what will happen.

Image for post
Image for post
Hundreds of makeshift shops, community centres and houses will be torn down as of Monday. Photo: Refugee Info Bus

Hundreds of makeshift shops, houses and a church will be torn down as part of a massive police operation to wipe out the camp for good and send its 10,000 inhabitants to smaller camps dotted around France. According to The Telegraph, around 12,000 refugee places have been allocated by the French government to various spots around the country. They say welcome centres of up to 300 people will be set up in low-populated areas, such as Auvergne, but in reality, many will end up living on the streets of Paris and other cities. As the winter is approaching, and the streets don’t offer the same level of volunteer support as the refugee camp, their situation might turn to worse.

Written by

Daily news digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and refugees on the route, but also for journalists and other parties.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store