AYS Daily Digest 02/11/2018: For refugees, mental health care access is crucial

Chaos in Idlib Province // Nearly 100,000 migrants have made the crossing to Europe this year // Refugee children’s access to school // Solidarity rally at Petrou Ralli Detention Center // New and informal camps in Bosnia // Storm devastates Roman encampment // Reunited in Belgium, against all odds //

La Pietà. Source: Gabriel Tizon.

Feature —

There are so many obvious material difficulties associated with being a refugee that it can be easy to forget what a toll the experience takes on one’s mental health. And yet, it is nearly impossible to imagine a set of circumstances more conducive to psychological distress.

First, the trauma of leaving one’s homeland, and the circumstances surrounding that departure. Many refugees have been tortured or seen family members killed. Next, a long, dangerous, uncertain journey toward safety. The devastating disappointment of realizing that “safety” might be another country that treats you like dirt. Months and years in limbo, with no control over your fate. And the possibility — always — that your reasons for undergoing this whole ordeal will be deemed insufficient. That you will be sent back to the place that you fled.

Anxiety. Depression. Schizophrenia. Self harm and attempted suicide. Rampant PTSD. All well documented among asylum seeking populations. And refugee children experience these issues at even higher rates.

Unfortunately, despite this reality, few refugees have access to the mental health care that they deserve. Essam Daod, a psychiatrist working in Athens, discusses the importance of mental health care for asylum seekers:

If you’re interested in learning more about the myriad mental health challenges facing refugees or want to know how to support folks you work with on the ground, Daod has a fascinating TED talk on the topic. As he says: “We need to acknowledge that first aid is not just needed for the body, but it has also to include the mind, the soul.”


The Syria Observatory for Human Rights reports total chaos in the Idlib region as shelling resumes in full force for the first time since an August 15 truce between Russian and Turkish forces. There has also been intense bombing in the Deir Ezzor Region as International Coalition forces fix their targets on the Islamic State’s last stronghold. More here.

There is no exact casualty count as of yet, but at least 10 civilians were killed by artillery fire in the city of Jarjnaz, to the east of Idlib, according to reports from the White Helmets. Many more are seriously wounded.


UNHCR Special Envoy Vincent Cochetel reports that a transit & departure center in Tripoli has been empty for more than 4 months while the authorities decline to authorize the transfer of around 1000 asylum seekers.

He also notes the lack of proper food and registration procedures in the detention centers:


A map of arrivals to Europe this year, and the dead left behind. Source: IOM.

IOM reports that nearly 100,000 migrants have arrived to Europe so far in 2018. 1,987 died in the crossing or are still missing.

The Missing Migrants Project has more information.

An update from SOS Mediterranée on the fate of the Aquarius:


Two boats, carrying a total of 110 people, arrived on Samos this morning, according to Aegean Boat Report. The Samos hotspot is over seven times its official capacity, Refugee Support Aegean reports.

IOM has released a new survey concluding that access to public education helps refugees’ social inclusion. “Access to regular schooling has enabled migrant and refugee children to make friends with students from other cultures, said 84 per cent of surveyed children in open accommodation centres in Greece,” ReliefWeb reports. But how many refugee children are actually able to attend school in the first place?

On the Greek islands, the educational situation is particularly dire. The isolation of the hotspots — combined with a lack of public transportation and local hostility to the idea — makes it nearly impossible for refugees to attend school. Action for Education, the only independent educational organization on Chios and the reason that countless refugee children and young adults have been able to attend school while stuck on the island, has launched its 2019 fundraising campaign. “For as long as it’s needed, we are fighting day after day to uphold the rights and dignity of youth, as they arrive into terrible conditions and abysmal camps in Europe,” they write. Find out more about the campaign here, and please consider donating if you have the money.

A man holds his refugee identification, or “white card.” Source: Mobile Info Team

Mobile Info Team has information in several languages about how to change incorrect information on your white card. See more here.

Solidarity Intervention at Petrou Ralli on November 3

This Saturday, November 3, there will be a rally held starting at 4pm at the Petrou Ralli detention center in Athens. Led by syllogikotḗtōn and Individuals Against Detention Centres, the protest will express solidarity with those detained at Petrou Ralli, as well as all immigrants “creating joint communities and trying to tear down every wall, visible or invisible, which lies between us.”


Aid Brigade reports that a new camp is open in Ušivak, and there are already over 450 refugees living inside.

Photos from the informal camp in Trnovi. Source: Refugees in Velika Kladusa.

Meanwhile, volunteers estimate that up to 400 people are living in the informal Trnovi camp in Kladusa, which is located on unstable ground and could be entirely washed away during the first heavy rains of the winter.

Another image of Trnovi. Source: Nidzara Ahmetasevic.


A storm blew through a temporary encampment in Rome last night, flattening tents and rendering bedding unusable, No Name Kitchen reports.

The aftermath of the storm. Source: No Name Kitchen.

According to a local Italian news outlet, 61 asylum seekers landed at the port of Reggio Calabria — not on a raft or dinghy, but aboard a sailboat flying the Dutch flag.

The passengers, all Iraqi men, were intercepted off the coast of Palizzi.

The latest data on government housing for asylum seekers and sea arrivals to Italy is available here and here, respectively.


Nora reunited with her family. Source: Krishna van Lierde

A volunteer based in Brussels reports:

This morning we found little Nora, 11, all alone, in one of the Brussels railway stations. She left Iraq about 6 weeks ago with her grandmother. The grandma fell gravely ill in Greece and somehow Nora managed to reach Belgium. She felt all alone and didn’t have food for 2 days. On one of her clothes a telephone number was embroidered, which we contacted. Apparently she had an aunt living near the German border. After calling the aunt (and couple of hours by car) the family was reunited and she could contact her mother in Iraq. A happy and very emotional moment after weeks of no news…
This girl made it with a lot of luck.
We wonder how many don’t make it?
Europe 2018. Is this the light of civilisation?


After helping over 200 children reunite with their families in Denmark Refugees Welcome Denmark have just reopened their application process for airfare support — find out more here (note: in Danish).


About 30 newly arrived asylum seekers have built a tent camp in Solna, just outside of Stockholm, Dagens Nyheter reports.

The first two years after a refugee arrives in Sweden are known as the “establishment phase,” and after a court decision saying that municipalities have the right to cancel contracts with newly arrived people, the responsible officials in Solna decided to interpret the legislation to mean that they could terminate rental contracts for the newly arrived asylum seekers living there. Those who have lost their accommodations will get help to try and find a new one, but several of them have now started this small tent camp, determined to stay in the area.

We strive to echo correct news from the ground through collaboration and fairness.

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

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