Police are evicting migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from public areas on the Greek island of Kos and directing them into an ill-equipped stadium, exacerbating conditions for thousands of people fleeing war zones, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.
"MSF is very worried about how the situation is evolving in Kos," said Brice de le Vingne, MSF director of operations. "What was previously a situation of state inaction is now one of state abuse, with police using increasing heavy-handed force against these vulnerable people."
More than 7,000 people arrived in Kos in July, a sharp increase since June. In the absence of proper reception facilities, many have put up tents in public parks and squares in Kos town, or are sleeping outside, around the police station, without any access to latrines and showers.
For the last two days, the police have been sending people to a stadium on the edge of town that has no hygiene facilities, shade or shelter. Local authorities took this initiative without any attempt to install the necessary infrastructure there.
This morning, about 2,000 people were at the stadium, including many families with babies and small children, waiting under the blazing sun for an opportunity to give their names to the police in the hope of being registered. The situation quickly got out of hand, with the police unable to ensure proper crowd management and dispersing the people by spraying them with fire extinguishers.
The great majority of people arriving in Kos are refugees fleeing war in Syria and Afghanistan.
"The Kos authorities have clearly stated that they have no intention of improving the situation for these people as they believe that this would constitute a 'pull factor,'" de le Vingne said. "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."
MSF is currently providing medical assistance at the former Captain Elias hotel, a dilapidated building without electricity, where hundreds of refugees are seeking shelter. Refugees wait there for an average of 10 to 15 days before being registered by the Greek police and receiving papers authorizing them to move on from the island—usually without being properly informed of the process.
MSF is also providing mobile medical consultations and distributing basic relief items to refugees taking shelter in parks and public places, where MSF has seen that they are sometimes subject to harassment by private security personnel.
"Eight months after MSF's first call for the Greek authorities to organize decent and humane reception in the islands of the Dodecanese, specifically on the island of Kos, we are appalled to see that the Greek state has failed to do so," said de le Vingne. "A site big enough to welcome all with minimum standards has yet to be designated. One is left to wonder what more the Greek authorities need to rise up to the occasion, take their responsibilities and receive these people humanely and with dignity."