An asylum seeker was found hanged in an apparent suicide at Greece’s largest port, shortly after aid agencies warned of mounting desperation among refugees trapped in the country.
The 25-year-old Syrian man was carrying refugee application papers when he was found dead near passenger ferry departure gates in Piraeus, outside Athens.
He had hung himself from a kiosk, the Kathimerini newspaper reported.
The Hellenic Coastguard said the man was pronounced dead at the scene, adding that a post-mortem would be carried out.
His death comes amid growing concern for around 62,000 refugees and migrants who remain trapped in Greece by the controversial EU-Turkey deal and border closures through Europe.
Asylum seekers continue to arrive by land and in smugglers’ boats over the Aegean Sea, where at least 11 people drowned last week, but European nations have refused quotas to relocate refugees and agreed transfers are running behind schedule.
Aid agencies have warned that increasing numbers of refugees trapped in Greece, where two men attempted to hang themselves from a tree in February 2016, were self-harming and attempting suicide as desperation mounts.
Sacha Myers, a spokesperson for Save the Children, told The Independent the charity was “deeply saddened” by the apparent suicide, adding: “Many [refugees in Greece] have been living in deplorable conditions for months now, with limited access to basic services like education or healthcare, and waiting for the resolution of their asylum claims.
“The constant stress, uncertainty, and anxiety are driving many asylum seekers to the edge.”
Research by Save the Children found more than 5,000 minors are living in “appalling conditions”, driving a mounting mental health crisis.
It found that children as young as nine were self-harming and 12-year-olds attempting suicide, sometimes filming themselves in the act.
A spike in drug and alcohol abuse by teenagers was also recorded, as dealers exploit them in the camps.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned that transit centres housing refugees in tents and shipping containers on Greek islands were well over capacity, with grim conditions and the threat of deportation taking its toll.
Its research has shown rocketing rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, trauma and psychosis.
MSF psychologists have been recording rising rates of attempted suicide and self-harm in recent months, with 12 migrants attempting to kill themselves on the island of Samos in January alone.
Several asylum seekers described their desperation to Human Rights Watch, including those who had fled war and persecution.
Arash, a 30-year-old asylum seeker being held in the EU-sponsored Moria detention centre on Lesbos, said he was tortured and forced through mock executions as a political prisoner in Iran.
Refugee crisis - in pictures
Refugee crisis - in pictures
A child looks through the fence at the Moria detention camp for migrants and refugees at the island of Lesbos on May 24, 2016.
Ahmad Zarour, 32, from Syria, reacts after his rescue by MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) while attempting to reach the Greek island of Agathonisi, Dodecanese, southeastern Agean Sea
Syrian migrants holding life vests gather onto a pebble beach in the Yesil liman district of Canakkale, northwestern Turkey, after being stopped by Turkish police in their attempt to reach the Greek island of Lesbos on 29 January 2016.
Refugees flash the 'V for victory' sign during a demonstration as they block the Greek-Macedonian border
Migrants have been braving sub zero temperatures as they cross the border from Macedonia into Serbia.
A sinking boat is seen behind a Turkish gendarme off the coast of Canakkale's Bademli district on January 30, 2016. At least 33 migrants drowned on January 30 when their boat sank in the Aegean Sea while trying to cross from Turkey to Greece.
A general view of a shelter for migrants inside a hangar of the former Tempelhof airport in Berlin, Germany
Refugees protest behind a fence against restrictions limiting passage at the Greek-Macedonian border, near Gevgelija. Since last week, Macedonia has restricted passage to northern Europe to only Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans who are considered war refugees. All other nationalities are deemed economic migrants and told to turn back. Macedonia has finished building a fence on its frontier with Greece becoming the latest country in Europe to build a border barrier aimed at checking the flow of refugees
A father and his child wait after being caught by Turkish gendarme on 27 January 2016 at Canakkale's Kucukkuyu district
Migrants make hand signals as they arrive into the southern Spanish port of Malaga on 27 January, 2016 after an inflatable boat carrying 55 Africans, seven of them women and six chidren, was rescued by the Spanish coast guard off the Spanish coast.
A refugee holds two children as dozens arrive on an overcrowded boat on the Greek island of Lesbos
A child, covered by emergency blankets, reacts as she arrives, with other refugees and migrants, on the Greek island of Lesbos, At least five migrants including three children, died after four boats sank between Turkey and Greece, as rescue workers searched the sea for dozens more, the Greek coastguard said
Migrants wait under outside the Moria registration camp on the Lesbos. Over 400,000 people have landed on Greek islands from neighbouring Turkey since the beginning of the year
The bodies of Christian refugees are buried separately from Muslim refugees at the Agios Panteleimonas cemetery in Mytilene, Lesbos
Macedonian police officers control a crowd of refugees as they prepare to enter a camp after crossing the Greek border into Macedonia near Gevgelija
A refugee tries to force the entry to a camp as Macedonian police officers control a crowd after crossing the Greek border into Macedonia near Gevgelija
Refugees are seen aboard a Turkish fishing boat as they arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast to Lesbos
An elderly woman sings a lullaby to baby on a beach after arriving with other refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey
A man collapses as refugees make land from an overloaded rubber dinghy after crossing the Aegean see from Turkey, at the island of Lesbos
A girl reacts as refugees arrive by boat on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey
Refugees make a show of hands as they queue after crossing the Greek border into Macedonia near Gevgelija
People help a wheelchair user board a train with others, heading towards Serbia, at the transit camp for refugees near the southern Macedonian town of Gevgelija
Refugees board a train, after crossing the Greek-Macedonian border, near Gevgelija. Macedonia is a key transit country in the Balkans migration route into the EU, with thousands of asylum seekers - many of them from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia - entering the country every day
An aerial picture shows the "New Jungle" refugee camp where some 3,500 people live while they attempt to enter Britain, near the port of Calais, northern France
A Syrian girl reacts as she helped by a volunteer upon her arrival from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos, after having crossed the Aegean Sea
Refugees arrive by boat on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey
Beds ready for use for migrants and refugees are prepared at a processing center on January 27, 2016 in Passau, Germany. The flow of migrants arriving in Passau has dropped to between 500 and 1,000 per day, down significantly from last November, when in the same region up to 6,000 migrants were arriving daily.
“I’ve attempted three times to kill myself,” he told HRW. “The conditions here remind me of the prison in Iran, the nightmares, the threats and the torture.
“I can’t leave the island and after such a long time here, I feel that nothing has a purpose anymore. You feel like ‘crazy’, wandering around without knowing why.”
Since 20 March 2016, all migrants arriving on Greek islands have been held while their asylum applications are processed under threat of deportation to Turkey, but legal blocks have slowed transfers and left refugees in overcrowded tent camps for up to a year.
Many lack proper shelter, heating and fuel, several asylum seekers were killed by hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning and a gas blast during a period of extreme cold over the winter.
Austria is to seek an exemption from having to accept more asylum seekers under the EU’s relocation scheme, arguing that it has already “fulfilled its obligation” after taking in around 90,000 migrants in 2015.
Chancellor Christian Kern, whose centre-left party is attempting to combat surging support for the far right, said his government was sending a letter to the European Commission asking to be excluded from future transfers.
It is a new blow to an already floundering system that only ever covered a fraction of arrival and has barely been implemented because of opposition led by Eastern European nations including Poland.
Fewer than 14,500 asylum seekers have been relocated from Greece and Italy – where 176,000 migrants are living in temporary reception centres – under the two-year EU plan that was supposed to cover 160,000 people before September.
One of its most vocal opponents has been Hungary, where a new law allowing all asylum seekers to be detained in border camps came into effect earlier this week.
The EU commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said European and Hungarian experts were meeting to discuss that the legislation complied with EU rules and principles.
Humanitarian organisations have called on the EU to take legal action against Hungary over the law and other measures making it increasingly difficult to seek asylum, with refugees reporting being beaten by police near the border fence.
Politicians have defended the measures as means of deterring refugees risking their lives to migrate “illegally” to Europe but, with wars continuing in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and elsewhere, thousands have continued to attempt treacherous sea crossings.
A grim record of 5,000 deaths at sea in 2016 is on course to be surpassed this year, with at least 811 migrants being drowned or suffocated on boat journeys over the Mediterranean so far in 2017.
Most lives are lost on the treacherous crossing between war-torn Libya and Italy, where numbers have increased since the EU-Turkey deal slowed shorter and comparatively safer voyages over the Aegean Sea to a trickle.
European leaders have vowed to increase cooperation with Libya’s fragile government but an agreement struck with Tripoli by Italy in February has been suspended by a Libyan court.
More than 27,000 asylum seekers have reached Europe by sea this year – around 23,000 to Italy and 4,000 to Greece – with the vast majority coming from Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iraq and sub-Saharan African nations.Reuse content