GREECE – Sexual violence against migrants and asylum seekers. The experience of the MSF clinic on Lesvos Island

by Rea A Belanteri, Sven Gudmund Hinderaker, Ewan Wilkinson, Maria Episkopou, Collins Timire, Eva De Plecker, Mzwamdile Mabhala, Kudakwashe C Takarinda, Rafael Van den Bergh

Plos One, 17 September 2020 (Open access)

Sexual violence can have a destructive impact on the lives of people. It is more common in unstable conditions such as during displacement or migration of people. On the Greek island of Lesvos, Médecins Sans Frontières provided medical care to survivors of sexual violence among the population of asylum seekers. This study describes the patterns of sexual violence reported by migrants and asylum seekers and the clinical care provided to them.

This is a descriptive study, using routine program data. The study population consisted of migrants and asylum seekers treated for conditions related to sexual violence at the Médecins Sans Frontières clinic on Lesvos Island (September 2017-January 2018).

There were 215 survivors of sexual violence who presented for care, of whom 60 (28%) were male. The majority of incidents reported (94%) were cases of rape; 174 (81%) of survivors were from Africa and 185 (86%) of the incidents occurred over a month before presentation. Half the incidents (118) occurred in transit, mainly in Turkey, and 76 (35%) in the country of origin; 10 cases (5%) occurred on Lesvos. The perpetrator was known to the survivor in 23% of the cases. The need for mental health care exceeded the capacity of available mental care services.

Even though the majority of cases delayed seeking medical care after the incident, it is crucial that access to mental health services is guaranteed for those in need. Such access and security measures for people in transit need to be put in place along migration routes, including in countries nominally considered safe, and secure routes need to be developed.

PHOTO: Médecins sans Frontières statement, 8 October 2020