Why are we there?

  • Health care exclusion

Our work

This is an excerpt from MSF's 2012 International Activity Report:

Greece is a common destination for migrants and refugees from the Middle East and South Asia seeking entry in Europe, but migrants in Greece, including asylum seekers, often face prolonged detention of up to 18 months.

Access to medical care is limited to emergencies, and new migration policies have resulted in mass arrests of migrants and their detention in sub-standard "pre-removal centers."

During 2012 MSF provided medical assistance to migrants and refugees arriving at the land border with Turkey (Evros region) and on the eastern Aegean islands (Agathonisi, Lesvos, Leros, Samos, Simi), as well as to those in detention centers there.

Most people came from countries affected by conflict, and their medical complaints were mainly a consequence of the gruelling journeys and poor conditions they had endured.

MSF medical staff treated injuries, skin and respiratory infections, gastrointestinal problems, frostbite and exhaustion. They also provided treatment for chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Basic relief items such as hygiene kits and sleeping bags were regularly distributed to people on arrival and in the detention centres of Evros, and necessities such as dry clothes provided to those who needed them.

In December, teams extended medical services throughout the region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, making regular visits to detention centres as state medical teams had withdrawn.

Migrants’ health had been affected by the length of their detention in sub-standard and overcrowded conditions. Staff treated patients for medical problems such as scabies, skin infections, and gastrointestinal complaints.

Reappearance of malaria

Malaria has reappeared in Greece after almost 40 years. MSF supported the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention team and local health facilities for seven months, working in the municipality of Evrotas, in Lakonia, contributing to prevention, epidemiological surveillance, clinical management, laboratory diagnosis, and vector control.

At the end of 2012, MSF had 16 field staff in Greece. MSF has been providing medical assistance in the country since 2008.

Patient story

Samira,* 17 years old, Lesvos

“In the Ghazni region of Afghanistan where we used to live, my father was killed, and my mother and two sisters were raped. I was the only one spared, so we decided to flee. We walked for months through mountains in the dark and the cold. We reached Lesvos island in extreme exhaustion. Here we feel safe; we received help from Médecins Sans Frontières and the local population.

At the border with Iran they separated us from one of our sisters: they put her in another truck and since then we’ve lost track of her. We want to go and live in a peaceful place, where our lives won’t be at risk.”

*  The patient's name has been changed

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