Greece: MSF Assists in Creating a Refugee Transit Camp

Borja Ruiz Rodriguez/MSF

A team of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) logisticians has helped build a transit camp with capacity to accommodate more than 1,000 people in the Idomeni area of Greece, close to the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). MSF has set up four large 240–square meter tents and two 45–square meter tents to be used for medical activities. The camp is also equipped with basic water and sanitation facilities.

These structures will be used to provide services to the thousands of refugees and migrants that pass through the area every day.

As Idomeni is a small, remote village with limited capacity to host the people arriving there, many refugees and migrants have no choice but to stay in squalid conditions. Many resort to staying outside in the bush or at the train station, without any shelter and with little access to food or hygiene facilities. With winter approaching, people will soon face even harsher conditions. MSF teams have witnessed a recent dramatic increase in the number of refugees crossing the border, sometimes seeing up to 5,000 people crossing in one day.

“After many months of coordinated efforts and negotiations with authorities, we are pleased that we have managed to create this transit camp for refugees and migrants,” says Antonis Rigas, MSF project coordinator in Idomeni. “With other European countries closing their borders, we fear a domino effect leading to FYROM closing its borders as well. The new camp is a positive step towards the improvement of accommodation and hygiene facilities in case people get stuck here.”

On August 21, FYROM decided to temporarily close its border with Greece, leading to a chaotic situation in Idomeni, with more than 3,000 people being violently prevented from crossing the border by FYROM border guards. They were then stranded at the border for days without access to shelter, hygiene facilities, or food.

“The shocking scenes we saw in August were a result of extreme measures to prevent desperate people fleeing violence and war from crossing borders,” says Aurelie Ponthieu, MSF humanitarian advisor on displacement. “But closing borders and using violence is not a solution, it is just provoking a humanitarian crisis on the other side."

Since April 2015, MSF has been offering medical consultations, psychological support, and relief items in the Idomeni area on the border between Greece and FYROM. From April 3 to August 31, MSF provided primary health care to 4,060 people and referred 53 patients to local hospitals. Nearly 4,000 people participated in individual and group mental health consultations. MSF also distributed 7,918 relief items such as hygiene products, energy food, blankets, and socks.

Learn More About MSF's Work With Migrants and Refugees

MSF Doctor, Stavroula Kostaki, checks the temperature of a patient in a queue. He is feeling ill but he does not want to leave his group because he is about to cross the border to Macedonia at Idomeni.
Borja Ruiz Rodriguez/MSF