Authorities Pushed to Address 'Shameful' Migrant Camps Where Children Sleep Amid Sewage Water

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are urging the Greek government to address living conditions in migrant camps on the country's Mediterranean islands, where more than 17,000 people are still being held after trying to reach Europe.

The appeal was signed by 19 civil society organizations—including Oxfam and Action Aid—and sent to the government Thursday, Reuters reported.

The Moria camp on the island of Lesbos is one of the largest in the country, as well as the entire Mediterranean region. More than 8,300 people are living there in a former military camp, housed in shipping containers and tents.

The ramshackle nature of such camps means comfort, and particularly sanitation, are lacking. The NGO appeal called conditions at the Moria facility "shameful" and said the situation was occurring in numerous other Greek camps.

On Monday, the governor of the North Aegean region, Christiana Kalogirou, warned that Moria could face closure if the "uncontrollable amounts of waste" being produced by those living there was not cleaned up.

The 19 NGOs said the camp is housing neatly three times the capacity for which it was designed, while "the sewage system does not work, and filthy toilet water reaches the tents and mattresses where children sleep."

"There is no excuse for the...conditions in which thousands of people remain trapped in limbo while they wait out their asylum claims," the organizations said.

A child looks on while standing in a tent at a camp next to the Moria refugee camp in the island of Lesbos, Greece, on August 5. NGOs are urging the government to address conditions inside the packed camp. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called on Greece to accelerate the transfer of migrants from Lesbos and other islands to the mainland. The government has been doing so to reduce stress on the island facilities, but thousands remain stranded. The UNHCR warned that conditions in Moria in particular were "reaching boiling point."

According to the BBC, violence and sexual assault in the camp is rife, while many charities refuse to operate inside in protest at the terrible conditions. The BBC said that while visiting to film the lives of residents there, two people were stabbed in a queue for food.

"We are particularly concerned about woefully inadequate sanitary facilities, fighting among frustrated communities, rising levels of sexual harassment and assaults, and the increasing need for medical and psycho-social care," Charlie Yaxley, a UNHCR spokesman, said in Geneva last month.

The small island of Lesbos was one of the main entry points for migrants during the surge in arrivals in 2015. Almost 1 million people made the journey, hoping to reach Europe from the Middle East and Africa.

The situation created political rifts in Europe, as poorer southern nations were forced to bear the brunt of new arrivals. German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the ambitious step of admitting around 1 million migrants to Germany in a bid to ease the pressure, but this provoked fierce anti-migrant sentiment domestically.

Numbers of new migrants have fallen significantly since the 2015 peak. About 1.3 million people came to Europe in 2015, while roughly 700,000 arrived in 2017.