Video Duration 02 minutes 48 seconds

Refugees held at Lesbos resort to self-harm to ‘leave the island’

A surge in refugees heading to Greece in the past three months is putting a strain on emergency facilities.

Lesbos, Greece – A surge of refugees heading to Greece over the past three months has put a strain on emergency facilities on Lesbos island, home to an overpopulated and increasingly dire refugee camp.

The facility on Lesbos was built to host 2,000 people, but it is now home to three times as many.

The conditions are so harsh that some refugees say they are willing to hurt themselves in the hope of being removed from the camp.

“I know of some people who cut themselves so that doctors can see they’re ill and let them go,” said Abdullah Talib, a refugee from Baghdad.

That’s a phenomenon the camp’s doctor, Dimitris Patestos, said he has seen many times in the four years he’s worked there.

“It’s true, they do these things. They’re quite common,” Patestos told Al Jazeera. “For all the years I’ve been here this has been going on.”

More than one million refugees have passed through Greece since 2015, often on their way to other countries in Europe.

As refugees stranded on Lesbos face the unforgiving winter months, the local mayor has accused the Greek government of wanting to turn the island into the “Guantanamo Bay of Europe“.

However, the government says it is not getting enough help from the European Union to mitigate the refugee crisis. 

Many refugees in the camp suffer from serious health problems. One man is living with bolts in his knees, while another suffers from corollary heart disease. Some fear conditions in Greece will make their conditions worse.

Aria Ntanika of Doctors Without Borders told Al Jazeera reports of refugees harming themselves in order to leave the camp were “horrendous” and “unacceptable”.

She said EU policies are “pushing people to complete and utter despair”.