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MSF in Greece, 2010
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In 2010, more than 47,000 undocumented migrants and asylum seekers were arrested at the land border between Greece and Turkey, according to Greek police data. Many had left unstable or wartorn countries, or were escaping persecution, human rights violations or extreme poverty.
Irregular – undocumented – migrants and asylum seekers are systematically detained upon arrival in Greece. In 2010, many of the detention centres and police stations where they are held were overcrowded, operating at two or three times their capacity, and living conditions were appalling.
Between August 2009 and May 2010, MSF provided psychosocial support, helping migrants and asylum seekers to cope with their situation in three detention centres: Filakio and Venna, both in northeastern Greece, and Pagani on the island of Lesvos. Psychologists offered individual and group counselling sessions, and held more than 380 consultations with 305 patients, as well as nearly 80 group sessions.
Detention has exacerbated existing distress and contributed to new symptoms of trauma. Of the migrants who received care from MSF, 39 per cent showed signs of anxiety, while 31 per cent had symptoms of depression. In June 2010, in the report Migrants in Detention: Lives on Hold,MSF documented the unacceptable living conditions in the three detention centres and the impact of detention on the wellbeing and mental health of the migrants.
Emergency assistance in Evros
In December 2010, the situation for migrants held in detention in the Evros region had become critical. Men, women, young children and unaccompanied minors were being crowded together in the same cells. People had to sleep on the floor next to the toilets. A typical situation was for two toilets and two showers to be shared by more than 100 people, and cleaning and personal hygiene materials were scarce. Freezing temperatures and a non-functioning heating system made conditions even worse.
The Ministry of Health medical staff working in some of the detention centres were too few to care for the thousands of migrants. Medical services were inadequate: new arrivals were not systematically screened by medical staff and there were no interpreter services.
Since the beginning of December 2010, MSF teams have been providing emergency medical and humanitarian assistance to improve living and hygiene conditions in Evros, the border police stations of Tychero, Soufli and Feres, and the Filakio detention centre. Doctors treated more than 850 patients, referring 15 to local hospitals, between December 2010 and the beginning of 2011. The team also distributed 3,500 sleeping bags and 2,500 personal hygiene kits.
MSF has worked in Greece since 2008.