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Mexico 2021 © Yael Martínez V./Magnum Photos


Moving forward: A humane response to migration

Mexico 2021 © Yael Martínez V./Magnum Photos

June 16, 2022

1:00PM-1:45PM ET

Event type: Live online

View the recording

Avril Benoît: 
Hello, everyone. Welcome and thanks for joining us for this discussion series Moving Forward. This is a four-part series that we are doing all year exploring how humanitarian aid workers are tackling some of the world's biggest challenges while preparing for future emergencies and how we will respond. I'm Avril Benoît. I'm the executive director of Doctors Without Borders joining you from New York City. Some of you might also know us from our French name, Médecins Sans Frontières, which gives us the acronym MSF, which you'll probably hear over the course of the discussion today. 
So, we're going to take a look at some of the critical health needs of people who have been forced from home. There are now more forcibly displaced people around the world than at any time in modern history, whether it's due to war or violence or climate events. More than 82.4 million people are now forcibly displaced. At the same time, migration and border policies for the vast majority of people on the move have become more strict. In many cases, these policies are downright inhumane, and we have witnessed it ourselves. The policies are forcing people into detention, allowing them to drown in the Mediterranean. There are policies deport people in dangerous cities along the US-Mexico border in the middle of the night. As we've seen with refugees from Ukraine, we know that when there is political will, governments can implement humane migration policies and refugee policies and ensure that people who are forced to flee can find safety. 
So, as we mark another World Refugee Day, June 20th, we will use this hour to shed light on stories of migration. Our panelists are going to help us better understand why people are fleeing, what they face along these migration routes, and how we are trying to help them. We have some great MSF experts with us on the line who can answer your questions and reflect on what we've learned from our work with displaced people. 
Just a little bit of housekeeping before we continue. Here's how this live webinar will work. There's a recording afterward. The discussion will run around 45 minutes, and whether you're joining from any platform, if you're watching from Zoom, you can submit questions also on the other. So, from zoom, it's just in the Q&A feature that you'll see there on the screen. On YouTube, LinkedIn, or Twitch, you can send your questions in the comments or chat section, and there are also, just FYI, live captions for this event available on all those channels. So, thanks to everybody for joining us once again, and here's our panel. Christianna Mourouzi, humanitarian affairs officer for MSF's health protection unit. She is based in Greece. Dr. Miriam Hernández, medical doctor for MSF who's worked in Mexico, Guatemala, and today joining us from Honduras. And Reem Mussa, humanitarian advisor and coordinator of our forced migration team in MSF's analysis department. She is joining us today from Egypt. 
So, hello to all of you. Thank you so much for joining us. It's great to see you. 
I see you're still all on mute. Okay. We've got you. Fantastic. So, let's just get started with one of the top questions here, which is what is driving people, so many people, to leave their homes in search of a better place to live. Maybe we could start with you, Reem Mussa. 
Reem Mussa: 
Yeah. Thanks for that, Avril. I think, as you mentioned today, that we see the highest number of people globally displaced ever in the world. The UNHCR recently announced that the number of people displaced today as refugees hit a hundred million people for the first time in history. So really, we're dealing with unprecedented displacement crisis globally. That's only those that are displaced according to the traditional definition that we have of displacement, which is those that are often displaced due to conflict or political persecution or other factors that are in that figure of a hundred million people. But as you mentioned, we have these complex dynamics today where we have not only the climate crisis, but we also have economic crises. I think we've seen the ripple effect of the Ukrainian war on food production and on the prices. I'm sure everyone's feeling that wherever they are at home. 
So, imagine that experience where people that were already facing livelihood challenges. So, you compound those things of new, emerging, difficult, complex, complex climate and economic crises, and you have a very complex migration situation. Meanwhile, you also have a taboo around so-called mixed migration patterns, right? That more and more countries want to limit who they recognize as vulnerable and who they recognize as a refugee or an asylum seeker. But that often does not reflect the reality of the complexity of displacement. So, we have these two definitions of refugees and asylum seekers and then economic migrants stigmatized. It's not usually that black and white, but that's what's fueling the restrictive environment, and the mis categorization of what drives displacement is fueling this binary discussion, which allows the more restrictive borders that we're seeing globally. 
Avril Benoît: 
Miriam Hernández, maybe you could describe what is forcing people, compelling people to leave their homes where you're based and reaching Greece, where you're having a look at the problem. 
Dr. Miriam Hernández: 
Well, can you hear me? 
Avril Benoît: 
Yes. I can. Go ahead. 
Dr. Miriam Hernández: 
Well, I think the immigration policies change frequently, to keep pushing them back frequently, all the year, all the months. I can see that. Nowadays, there are a lot more legal restriction in each country on all the immigration route. This is a constant persecution and validates to those policies in each country. Also, lack of clear information about the access to refuge and protection, it's very difficult. Often the policies are confusing because they constantly change, and for immigrant have access to reliable sources of immigration, it's very, very hard. 
Avril Benoît: 
And you are following things through Central America, Mexico. Christianna, you're following things that are coming through the Mediterranean and you're based in Greece. Tell me what is pushing people to flee their homes and arrive where you're based. 
Christianna Mourouzi: 
I think that whatever my colleague said, it's the same for this part of the world as well. Refugees need safety. This is the fleeing from persecution, but it's not only these kind of terms as Reem mentioned before. We see these mixed categories of people, but the policies have the tendency of putting these categories, and that's what we've seen the past years of restriction. Actually, currently in Greece, where we had, for example, more than 20,000 people in one island, actually in the islands of the Aegean, we have now 2,000 people. We've seen less and less people being able to reach safety and being able to reach and cross borders. 
Avril Benoît: 
Let's hear a little bit more about those policies though that are pushing people back. Christianna, can you describe what that's like, what has happened? 
Christianna Mourouzi: 
So, actually, what has been happening the for quite some time, but the last, at least two years, we have seen not only MSF but other institution as well, these policies taking actual place, meaning that people that are trying to cross either the Aegean or the land borders with Turkey and Bulgaria, do not have this opportunity to actually express their request for asylum, express their arguments on why they are coming to Greece. What is happening, and what our patients say also is that while they are trying to cross the borders, they are pushed back, meaning that they find themselves on the other side of the borders. This is not, as reports have been saying, this is not taking only once, but more and multiple times that are happening. So, it is a standardized policy. Actually recently, some days ago, the UN special reporter for migrants' rights mentioned that it is a de facto policy, what is happening in Greece right now. So yes, people are not allowed to come in, are not welcome to actually ask for asylum and express their need for support. 
Avril Benoît: 
This is one of those questions though, that I sometimes receive when I'm discussing these policies, the political issues, the implications, is why is this an issue for Doctors Without Borders? Why is this a health issue? I'd like to come to you, Miriam, with a focus in a minute on what you're seeing in terms of the implications through Central America, Mexico, but maybe for you, Reem, since you look at the overall picture, what makes this a health issue? What are the health effects of all these policies? 
Reem Mussa: 
Yeah. So as Christianna said that there's several elements in the play. As you noted that the kind of restrictive migration environment encompasses various types of policies, so either restrictions of the borders or detention or externalization policies where countries pay other countries to influence their restrictive migration agenda, all have a ripple effect on people's health. Because in the end of the day, one of the main things that we see continuously on different migration routes, whether they're migration routes towards America, whether the migration routes towards Europe, or even towards Southern Africa, this is not just a phenomenon of the so-called West. We also are seeing these things and these policies being implemented in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia in between migration routes there, is that we also see an increase of violence. 
So, for example, we did a study in 2016 after the European government made a deal with Turkey to close the borders with Turkey in Europe. When after the EU-Turkey deal, what we saw on the route was an increase of rates of violence that people experience crossing borders, and that violence actually sometimes is a direct result of actions taken by border guards and police at borders. So, for example, in the Balkan route along Serbia, where Serbia borders with countries like Croatia and Hungary and Romania that are within the EU, we see that 70% of the violence that we see and injuries that we treat are a direct result of violence from border police and border guards within the EU territory. This is systematic, as Christianna said, it's a de facto policy. So, one, violence increases along the routes, which has medical humanitarian consequence. 
Then we also see particularly the broader health consequence when people are detained, when people are excluded, when people are left to be destitute, and when they're punished by states for trying to seek protection, all the other health indicators are impacted by that. So oftentimes we are offering primary health services along migration routes because health exclusion is one of the tools of the restrictive migration policies. That's also important for us to keep an eye on, and it's something that we work on significantly. 
Then we see the mental health impact, and this mental health impact that we see is detrimental. We work in several different contexts in MSF, in conflict settings, in settings that are responding to natural disasters. But oftentimes when we look at the mental health indicators as a result of these restrictive migration policies, we see some of the worst mental health indicators that we've seen anywhere in the world. This is what we saw in Nauru, which was the island that Australia offshored migrants to, where we were treating a cohort of refugees and asylum seekers that were actually recognized refugees and asylum seekers but were put in Nauru because of Australia's offshore policy. We saw the worst mental health indicators that we've seen in any MSF project, even those that treat victims of torture. So just to give you guys an indication of how horrible those mental health indicators are, and we continuously see this pattern, no matter what border. So that makes you really start to reflect on what is the health and humanitarian impact of restrictive migration policies and that impact is global and direct. 
Avril Benoît: 
Miriam, you have been working in this field for several years now. Since 2016, you've worked in different medical humanitarian projects that are along these migration routes in the Americas. What are the medical needs that you have been seeing? You have to unmute. 
Dr. Miriam Hernández: 
I think the medical needs in populations have been changing all the time because the immigrant profile have been changing too, for different circumstances. For example, as time for the time of the route, now I can see the new complete families are moving. When I talk about that is I can see children, senior people, pregnant women, and this response and other needs specific and different needs because many years ago, the profile is just the men, adult men to immigration. Now I can see a lot children. 
Too, I can see not convenient minors. For this, the humanitarian aids have to adapt constantly. Maybe you can listen about the big caravans, right? These have a very mixed population. Sometimes we have to improve the activities for another caravan. Well, it would take and count these factors, we can understand the multiple morbidities in this population and it's currently more frequently. In addition, already, we know the essential risk is very sad, but we know the risk factors are as sexual violence, extortions, and all the consequences of the long route. These necessities are complex because we can see the different disease and physical disease, mental health, health, and chronic disease have to change our activities. 
Avril Benoît: 
Yeah. We have to adapt all the time, depending on a whole variety of things coming through. We are getting some questions from people who are joining us online. I actually have a question for those of you who are watching. For more than two years now, the United States Southern border at Mexico has been almost completely shut off to asylum seekers. This is a true or false option for you. Maybe put in the chat what you think the answer is. Can you imagine? For almost two years shut off to asylum seekers. True or false? What do you think? Put it in the chat. Seeing a few responses there. All right. I'm going to give you the answer now. The answer is true. 
Under Title 42, the COVID-19 pandemic has been used as an excuse, and a bad excuse I would say, to turn away legally protected asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border. Through President Biden, although President Biden has actually pledged to end the policy, it remains in place much to our disappointment. And Title 42, which is also known in the news sometimes or among activist circles as the Remain in Mexico policy, really has done a lot of damage. The CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, issued a decision to terminate the order in May. But last month, a federal judge blocked that CDC decision from ending Title 42. So, it just doesn't hold up from a scientific or a refugee law perspective at all. People should be given an opportunity to make their claims and have correct process. Reem Mussa, are you seeing these kind of policies all over the world? I mean, obviously this one came into being because of the pandemic, a nice little excuse there, but is it typical to have such a law? 
Reem Mussa: 
I think there's two parts of that. One, as you said, the pandemic was an unfortunate milestone when it comes to border restrictions. According to the IOM, there was more than a 100,000 border and travel restrictions that were implemented during the time of COVID-19. Many of those have been lifted. They're the ones that stopped me and you from going on vacation. However, those that impact asylum seekers and refugees and migrants are often place are still in place. So, we see, again, this double stance on who is allowed mobility in the world and who is not. So, the most vulnerable people, the most exposed people in the world, COVID-19 border restrictions still apply to them. So, you have Title 42 in the USA. For example, the Italian government set up quarantine vessels, boats to basically put everybody who had arrived from Libya, crossing the Mediterranean after their treacherous journey, to put them back on a vessel for their two-week quarantine. This measure is still in place even though there's no public health justification for it. 
Meanwhile, refugees arriving from the Ukraine only have to test upon arrival, right? So, you see, again, the double standard that is in place and the way in which COVID 19, unfortunately, is actually being used as a smoke screen to increase restrictive policies. We see this as well in Greece where restrictions that were put in place on the hotspots or the centers in which migrants were held are now actually being systematized as part of the new, what they call closed-control access center. So I think the name already says a lot about the intention of the center itself. So COVID-19 must be the testing ground for the restrictions and the type of restrictions that we will see become part of the status quo. So, yeah, on that part of COVID-19, unfortunately we see that global health security and migration control do overlap sometimes. Unfortunately, global health security is instrumentalized to increase migration control. 
More broadly, do we see these policies globally? We do see these policies globally, and it's often the countries that are the kind of the better-off countries are the ones that are implementing these policies. So, we're seeing a pattern of wealthier countries implementing restrictive migration policies, even though actually those countries do not host the majority of displaced people locally. So again, we're seeing the disproportionality, right? As I said, those hundred million people that were displaced over the last year, very, very few of them ever make it to the USA or to Australia or to Europe, yet it's those countries that are implementing these policies and are also externalizing, asking countries in other territories like Africa to also implement and increase migration restrictions to towards them. 
I think we see a cut and paste that's a bit happening. For example, the Australian offshoring model that I mentioned earlier with Nauru is now being implemented by the UK, who is planning to make a deal with Rwanda to basically place people who arrive in the UK irregularly and send them to Rwanda for the processing. These policies are what we call deterrence policies. They're actually made to make an example of refugees. So, this is the complete distortion of protection. We have the lowest... 80,000 people that arrived in Europe through the Mediterranean last year, yet you see a disproportionate amount of investment in stopping people from arriving. However, seven million Ukrainians crossed into the European Union after the Ukrainian conflict and we saw that there was a capacity to receive them, even though there was still gaps. I don't want to... It was not... It's never, but there was a willingness, a political will, as you mentioned, to receive them. So, we like to not talk about a migration crisis. We talk about a reception crisis and in the end of the day, it's a choice to receive and protect, and it's an obligation. 
Avril Benoît: 
And there are so many all over the world. I mean, even I get confused about which ones are which because they just seem to tumble through. I made a mistake earlier. I mentioned Title 42. MPP, the Migration Protection Protocol, so-called, is another policy affecting those coming up through Mexico. So, Title 42 is the one that allows for the immediate expulsion from the US. And MPP is the Remain in Mexico one, pushing people back to Mexico to await their asylum proceedings in dangerous places. 
Now, I have a couple of questions coming in that I'd like to steer toward you, Christianna Mourouzi, since you're following things, especially around the Mediterranean. First question from Dorothy, who's watching on Zoom. How does MSF decide who to help and where to set up operations with displaced people? Because many people would be surprised that we have even operations in Europe at all, let alone on the Mediterranean with the search and rescue work. 
Christianna Mourouzi: 
So actually for the search and rescue mission, it was a decision that was taken in actually 2015, where state certain rescue activities stopped being carried out, meaning that people that were leaving from Libya and the coast of Africa to reach safety, wouldn't be saved. To just have an idea, since 2015, we have provided life-saving assistance to more than 80,000 people, okay, that were in distress at sea. So, these numbers, and also the fact that Libya is a country that has been announced as a place of torture and violence and abuse, we cannot stay silent in having people being returned or staying there once they're trying to reach safety. 
So just also, as an idea, the MSF in the last year with the search and rescue boat that we have, the Geo Barents, has saved more than 3,000 people in total. Like, in a year. There, we see an unaccompanied minors, women traveling alone, survivors of trafficking, sexual violence, torture, and all these people are trying to reach a safe port. This is what we see also, this is one of the challenges because, yes, we do save the people in the Mediterranean, but then it's another challenge to find a port that will allow for people to reach this safety. 
Avril Benoît: 
So, when people ask you, well, how do you decide? We've got even an explosion of the figure that I had earlier stated. So, a 100 million people forcibly displaced now seeking asylum around the world, and how do we decide where to intervene? Christianna? 
Christianna Mourouzi: 
I think maybe Reem, I can give the question to Reem. Maybe she's much better organized to answer this question. 
Reem Mussa: 
No, it's a difficult choice. Yeah. As we say, as I mentioned, the kind of number of displacement factors are unprecedented. Of course, MSF is not alone. There's many agencies and there's many governments as well that are responding to large displacement crises. As I mentioned, oftentimes, those places, that absorption is happening in developing countries that are actually having the majority of the hosting capacity. We're a very fortunate in MSF to be independent medical humanitarian that is a organization that's able to conduct assessments globally. We have people in the field globally. 
So, depending on the context of the situation, there's two types of ways in which we launch operations. Those that are triggered at an emergency when it's a lifesaving intervention, and the search and rescue started as that. But unfortunately it's a permanent emergency that we see today. We saw unprecedented numbers, people dying in the Mediterranean Sea and really we're able to fill a need, and there's others in which we understand that there's situations that are unacceptable and that us, as a medical humanitarian organization can negotiate access. That's oftentimes in places, in detention centers and someone I saw in the chat asked about are we able to respond to the situation on the islands for Australia? For us, that was a choice to be there because we knew there was maybe a smaller group of people than some other big displacement crisis, but that we knew that they were exposed to an unprecedented level of harm due to the restrictive migration policies. So, we have different criteria and different assessment globally, and we have teams all over the world that conduct those assessments. Yeah, thankfully as I myself, we were able to respond to many of these crises. 
Avril Benoît: 
We're receiving questions from our audience today on two different themes. One of them is how local communities can support refugees. So, we'll get to that in a minute. But the first one that I'd like both of you, Christianna and Miriam, to answer is how do we help people with mental health issues, who are in mental health distress from their forced displacement. Miriam, do you want to go first? Like, how do we approach that as a medical organization? 
Dr. Miriam Hernández: 
Well, as a medical activity manager, I can constantly review about the context because this context is very aggressive, the weather influence, too, and sometimes this very hostile route, this is one point, but sometimes we have to know what happened in their countries, in the country of origin because sometimes for this reason, they start to move to another country, then we can add these circumstances and we can imagine, and we can see, and now as MSF, we keep learning more about the mental health immigration people. 
It's very frequently because I read some question, the frequently situation, all disease are post-traumatic, trauma, the generalized anxiety, depression, or it's more mental frequently, but the psychotic episodes because it's very hard. The violence there. They have to take in front. They are very strong people because whatever's in their histories, I can't imagine sometimes how to cross in this situation, these countries because I can see people of very far countries, and sometimes they cross a middle of the world. They cross oceans. They cross a lot countries. When they give you the confidence to talk about their histories, it's very, very impressive how to talk many time, many months with this emotional bag. 
Avril Benoît: 
Yeah. So, it's a combination of approaches, depending on, I guess, the circumstance, whether you're doing individual counseling, group counseling, offering medication, and certainly as you point out, understanding what they've been through, understanding what they've left, but also what they experienced on the journey being vital to being appropriately responsive to their needs. 
Christianna, we have a couple of questions about how people can provide support. Natalia, for example, watching on LinkedIn, is wondering just what local communities could do to be better advocates and welcome refugees to their communities. And also just a related question from Dominic also on LinkedIn, how do we spread the message that refugees come from a full cross section of society, from all kinds of different professional backgrounds; no one's immune from violence and abuse in their home country, and just to try to be supportive in fostering a positive message around immigration and asylum seeking. 
Christianna Mourouzi: 
Well, thank you for the questions. I would love to what Dr. Miriam said, being understandable and understanding of their situation, being open to hear the stories and try maybe to understand that actually these stories are not very far from you. The reason that for someone is moving can happen to you too. I think we've seen it with Ukraine, where no one was expecting that in Europe we will see such things, but then yet it happened. So, I think the societies need to, against the policies, against rhetorics of having these close-minded ideas of what the refugees are, that we are more open. Actually, the fact that having this label somehow, asylum seeker or refugee, makes them just that. They're human beings like us. You've mentioned, Avril, about professions, backgrounds. We have seen people in our clinics, graphic designers, professions, things that they can offer in the new host society and being just blind and not welcoming actually really makes them just not seeing them as who they are. 
Going back to that thing with the containment and the deterrence policies, we see, for example, in Greece, that the new model as Reem said is the closed-control camps. People will be in camps and are in camps. We don't come into interaction with them. So how we are going to see what they want, what they would like to offer, how they are as human beings, if they are just hidden and closed in camps? So, from the host society, I think they also need to speak out and go and talk about what is actually happening and not accepting that there is a closed camp that will have hundreds of people, families, children, that are just there, like in prison, just because they wanted to seek safety. 
Avril Benoît: 
All right. Well, we're almost running out of time and Reem, I'd like to bring you back in to talk a little bit about the difference with people from Ukraine. We do have a question that came in from Bruce during the registration for this. Will MSF continue supporting refugees from Ukraine for the long haul? Of course, that's hard for us to say, but speak to the difference then a little more of how Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed in ways that others have not. 
Reem Mussa: 
Yeah. Maybe first, I just want to jump on something that Christianna said because I think that I've been working on this topic for 10 years now. Actually, what I see is actually it is communities and it is local governments that we see solidarity still exists. There's an amazing initiative of mayors across Europe to be cities that are safe harbors for refugees and migrants. We have solidarity cities in the USA. We have massive community mobilizations that are happening, and I encourage everyone to be part of those movements because those movements, and it's local communities are actually saying, "We actually want to host people. We want to be a safe place for people that are refugees and migrants and integrate them in our communities." 
And that's where we're seeing the hostile policy and the restrictiveness is coming from states. It's not coming from communities. I think that's something we can leverage. I think we need to use that to our advantage and actually remind people that actually there is a mobilization happening, and it's not such a hostile as environment as maybe we sometimes make it and sometimes it feels. That's something that motivates me in my work. 
I think that also is linked to the situation in Ukraine is that in 2015, when we saw the arrival of people from Syria in other places in Europe, there was a mass mobilization to say refugees welcome in communities. That CSO mobilization, that civil society mobilization is actually happening today for Ukrainians as well. That's where I don't see a double standard. Where I do see a double standard is actually the reception from states. The difference between having a Syrian passport and a Ukrainian passport means that you are afforded, and the European Union activated something called the temporary protection directive, which means that all people fleeing Ukraine automatically receive temporary protection in Europe for a period minimum of one to three years. This is the first time the European Union has activated this directive, specifically for Ukraine. 
That legal state, that recognition that being able, even if the reception services in some European countries is not perfect, it makes such a difference for those arriving for Ukraine. So that's that irregularity, that making people illegal and pushing people to exclude them from society and detaining them is really what makes the difference. It shows that actually, states, all they have to do is recognize the right to protection. It makes a big difference for those that are arriving. There is ways to host people at a community level and at a structural level, and they've demonstrated that with Ukraine. 
So that double standard, unfortunately, does not surprise me. I wish it did. But that double standard is also inherent to these policies. What these policies do is they decide who can come and who cannot. I grew up in Australia, and I remember the government's message was we will decide who comes here and the means in which they arrive. So those policies are specifically for people who arrive on boats. It's not about someone's exposure to persecution, their right to protection, their experience on the migration route. It's about states wanting to basically exclude some and include others. That's what we see in Ukraine. So unfortunately, the response is just how I expected it, and I wish it wasn't. 
Avril Benoît: 
Well, you've touched on a number of areas that sound like they're key to ensuring a more humane response to migration. Thank you for that, Reem. And maybe just to hear from our other two panelists on looking at the future. What do you think it will take for a humane response? Maybe Miriam, you could go first? 
Dr. Miriam Hernández: 
Yes. Well, I can't imagine the many change in this moment because the people have to move, to wait long in the border and have to wait a lot of time. The constantly feeling is about the uncertain about the process, and this have what happened with my future because they have an expectation to cross, to start a new life in the other side of the border. But sometimes for this uncertain, no clear policies, maybe don't have possibilities to cross the border, but they have to wait a lot time in the shelters. For example, usually in the border, the shelters in the border, the people just stay two, three days and then have to cross. The necessities in this for these people, it's very punctual or very specific. You don't need a lot exercise to understand their necessities. 
But now, recently I can see the people wait months, six months, one year in the same shelter and they can't work. They can't possibilities to work. They don't have access to health or their health in general. Sometimes have to move out of shelters for security reasons. This is very frequently in the Northern border. But now I can see here in Honduras, the little, the cities very next from Nicaragua, they never imagine maybe they have to humanitarian response because this is just a cross... In the last months, just the people cross Honduras in one day and now have to wait 15 days, two weeks to cross Honduras. Their vulnerabilities have to increase very, very, very, very strong. 
Avril Benoît: 
Oh, it just doesn't sound like a good situation at all. We are definitely out of time. So, I'm going to give you the last word, Christianna, in terms of looking at the overall picture. What do you think needs to change for things to be more humane? 
Christianna Mourouzi: 
I think, yeah, the situation doesn't look good either here, but I think once voices are united, then the experiences are shared and there is this interaction, as Reem said, with the civil society, with local societies, the host communities. Then the humane factor is more up, is that factor that is enlightened. So I think that while policies get stricter, I think experiences and voices need to be more vocal and more united. 
Avril Benoît: 
Well, we're certainly trying to do that today. Thank you all so much for joining us. Really appreciate you sharing your experiences and your perspectives and expertise on this. The issues are so important to Doctors Without Borders, to MSF. We've been working with displaced people for more than 50 years since the beginning, and we will continue to provide care and advocate on these issues. So, for World Refugee Day, we do call on governments to treat all refugees, all asylum seekers with dignity and humanity regardless of their race, ethnicity, nationality, politics. So, thank you again, Christianna Mourouzi, humanitarian affairs officer joining us from Greece; Dr. Miriam Hernández, medical doctor for MSF, joining us from Honduras; and Reem Mussa, coordinator of MSF's forced migration team in Brussels joining us today from Egypt. Great conversation. Thank you so much again. 
The next webinar in this series will be live Thursday, September 22nd. We'll take a closer look at planetary health and the adverse effects of climate change, which we could have talked a lot about today, but the migration issues notwithstanding, there are actual specific health issues related to that. We'll get into that in September. 
So, thanks to everyone for joining us, for watching online. Apologies if we didn't get to your question but do stay in touch. Stay connected with MSF. You can email us That reaches the team that organizes these. For more information, just go to our website. In the US, it's, and in the rest of the world, international website is You can also, of course, find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and beyond. I'm Avril Benoît, signing off from New York. Thanks, and take care. Bye-bye.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) invites you to join us for a special conversation to mark World Refugee Day. We are now seeing record numbers of people forced from home—including a massive exodus of people fleeing the war in Ukraine. Governments from Europe to the United States are largely welcoming refugees from Ukraine, showing that it is possible to provide a humane response to people seeking safety.

We are calling for all refugees and asylum seekers to be treated with dignity and humanity—regardless of their race, ethnicity, or nationality. We'll be in conversation with Christianna Mourouzi, humanitarian affairs officer for MSF’s Health Protection Unit based in Greece; Dr. Miriam Hernández, medical doctor for MSF in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras; and Reem Mussa, coordinator of MSF’s forced migration team based in Brussels. Together with moderator Avril Benoît, MSF-USA's executive director, this panel of MSF experts will answer your questions about the medical care we provide for people on the move, and the physical and mental health issues we witness firsthand.

Watch the first webinar in our four-part series here. Moving-Forward: The Future of COVID looks at what we’ve learned from our COVID response over the past two years, and why we’re calling for pandemic protection for everyone everywhere.

(Top photo credit: Mexico 2021 © Yael Martínez V./Magnum Photos)

Meet the speakers

Christianna Mourouzi

Christianna Mourouzi is a humanitarian affairs officer with MSF in Greece. Prior to joining MSF in 2021, she worked with the Hellenic Red Cross in an integration program for asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants. Christianna studied International and European Affairs at Panteion University for Social and Political Studies. She holds a Master’s degree in Public International Law, specializing in Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, and in Educational and Social Policies with a focus on migration policies, social inequalities, and citizenship. Through her internships and volunteer work, she has been involved with the Legal Service of the Greek Council for Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Citizenship Directorate of the Ministry of Interior.

Dr. Miriam Hernández

Dr. Miriam Hernández began working with MSF in Mexico in 2016, caring for survivors of sexual violence in Acapulco, Guerrero until the project closed in December 2018. In 2019, she worked in MSF's migration project in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, and then in Tenosique, Tabasco, on the southern border. During this time, she collaborated and participated in the COVID-19 emergency response in Tijuana. She recently finished her first MSF assignment as an expatriate in Tecún Umán, Guatemala for the opening of the migration project as mobile health activity manager. Dr. Hernández currently holds the same position in the Tegucigalpa team in Honduras where she started activities in mobile clinics for care of the people on the move. 

Reem Mussa

Reem Mussa is a humanitarian advisor and coordinator of the Forced Migration Team in MSF's analysis department. Based in Brussels, Belgium, Reem focuses on the humanitarian and health impacts of displacement, as well as asylum and migration policies. She supports MSF operational teams with humanitarian analysis and advocacy specifically for operations in Southern and Northern Africa, the Pacific Region, and Europe, including MSF's emergency interventions in response to Ukrainian displacement. Reem is a member of the Lancet Migration European Hub and is the co-chair of the Borders and Health working group.

Avril Benoît

Avril Benoît is the executive director of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières in the United States (MSF USA). She has worked with the international medical humanitarian organization since 2006 in various operational management and executive leadership roles, most recently as the director of communications and development at MSF’s operational center in Geneva, a position she held from November 2015 until June 2019. Throughout her career with MSF, Avril has contributed to major movement-wide initiatives, including the global mobilization to end attacks on hospitals and health workers. She has worked as a country director and project coordinator for MSF, leading operations to provide aid to refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in Mauritania, South Sudan, and South Africa. Avril’s strategic analysis and communications assignments have taken her to countries including Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine. From 2006 to 2012, Avril served as director of communications with MSF Canada. Prior to joining MSF, Avril had a distinguished 20-year career as an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in Canada. She was a documentary producer and radio host with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), reporting from Kenya, Burundi, India, and Brazil on HIV stigma, rapid urbanization, sexual violence in conflict, and political inclusion of women, among numerous other assignments and topics. Recent articles: Surge of humanity needed for migrants and refugees