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Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey calls on EU leaders for action in face of mental health crisis facing refugees in Lesvos

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Game of Thrones star and IRC Voice Lena Headey urged European leaders to step up efforts to protect and share responsibility for the refugee crisis that has left tens of thousands in limbo following a one-day visit to Moria reception centre in Lesvos, Greece.

In Greece, refugees are continuing to languish in reception centers that are overcrowded and overstretched three years after the height of the refugee crisis. There are currently 72,000 asylum-seekers and counting in Greece, 7,000 of whom are living on Lesvos. Moria reception centre is a case in point, currently at double its intended capacity and in the midst of a mental health crisis as conditions worsen and desperation increases. A recent IRC report revealed that over 60% of refugees treated at the IRC’s mental health centre in Moria have considered suicide, with 30% having already attempted it - unprotected, unsupported and uncertain about their futures.

Ahead of the release of the final season of the hit television programme, Headey witnessed the increasingly desperate conditions experienced by Lesvos’ refugees after having last visited the island two years ago. Overcrowding, outbursts of violence and a shortage of dignified sanitation facilities mean that people are too afraid to go to the toilets after dark or use the showers. People are herded through small metal fencing to queue for up to three hours to receive food with little or no nutritional value. Women and girls face the persistent threat of sexual violence compounded by the trauma of uncertainty.

Headey met with refugees including Patrick, a human rights activist from Congo who fled his country fourteen months ago. Forced to live in a container with ten other men, he remembers when he first saw the barbed wire fence of Moria - and how the IRC’s mental health support saved him. “My first day in Moria was a horrible day,” he said. “I was broken and disappointed. When I came to Lesvos, I lost my hope. That strength you see? I didn’t have it.”

Lena Headey, IRC voice and Game of Thrones star said:

“The conditions in Moria are extremely difficult. I have met some incredible people who have experienced unimaginable levels of trauma. Women who have been raped, men who have to queue for up to nine hours a day to collect food for their families. I was last here two years ago, and the situation seems to have reached a new peak of desperation. Being stuck in limbo with no certainty about the future has an alarming effect on the mental health of people who have been living in Moria; as an advocate for mental health, what I saw on Lesvos resonated deeply.

“The crisis isn’t going away. People arrive every week needing protection and it is truly unfair for Greece to have to deal with this alone. There should be significant efforts to improve services and facilities on the ground for refugees - and a serious and humane effort to both expand legal pathways into Europe and share responsibility across the continent. This is a European crisis and it is Europe’s responsibility to find a solution.”

You can find photographs of Headey’s visit with the IRC to Lesvos here.


About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.