‘I will get to Europe eventually’: The mental illness epidemic among child migrants at Europe’s door

Stranded in the Balkan countries with only traffickers as friends, child asylum seekers live in perilous conditions, write David L. Suber and Roshan de Stone

Monday 05 July 2021 19:53 BST
Nawab overlooking the old port of Patras, Greece
Nawab overlooking the old port of Patras, Greece (Brush & Bow CIC)

Nawab stands on the top floor of an abandoned factory building overlooking the port of Patras, in western Greece. His left forearm, and his leg, just above the knee, are covered in parallel scars, twisting a shiny pink against his darker skin – marks of self-harm from when he was held in the Malakasa detention centre.

During Greece’s first lockdown in March 2020, thousands of migrants were detained inside closed camps on the Aegean islands, following nationwide Covid-19 restrictions that blocked asylum seekers from moving on to mainland Greece.

Migrants and asylum seekers, facing overcrowded and insanitary conditions in the camps, were held in legal limbo. “All day, I would just do nothing, waiting. There was nothing to do but think and remember what happened to me at home. When I cut myself, the physical pain helps take away my mental pain for a while.”

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