NEW YORK/ATHENS, AUGUST 21, 2020—On August 20, anti-migrant protestors attacked and set fire to a pediatric clinic run by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) outside Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.
During the attack, protestors started a fire outside the MSF pediatric and sexual reproductive health clinic. The fire had to be put out by MSF staff. As staff worked to put out the fire, a small group of protestors gathered outside, shouting at and threatening staff while throwing stones into the clinic where approximately 50 staff were working to treat women and children from Moria camp. No MSF staff were injured.
The protesters had gathered in opposition to Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou's visit to inaugurate a new government COVID-19 facility, which was also attacked.
This incident comes less than a month after MSF was forced to close its COVID-19 isolation center on Lesbos in response to local authorities’ decision to impose fines with potential criminal charges related to urban planning regulations.
Marco Sandrone, MSF field coordinator on Lesbos, said the following of the attack:
“MSF strongly condemns the violent attacks on its pediatric clinic and the new government COVID-19 facility outside Moria yesterday, where anti-migrant protestors gathered in opposition to the president’s visit to inaugurate the new medical structure for COVID-19.
“In what world do we live in where children and pregnant women being treated by doctors are subject to people throwing stones at them? Our medical teams had to be evacuated by bus from the scene—it is just utterly incomprehensible that attacks like this can occur in any setting. Luckily nobody was injured. However, both our staff and patients were put at risk, and our medical care was impeded due to the chaos that ensued.
“For some time now, we have been witnessing a rise in aggressive behavior towards asylum seekers and refugees, as well as humanitarian organizations and volunteers who have repeatedly been targeted and harassed for simply trying to provide assistance to vulnerable groups on Lesbos. This incident highlights a malignant symptom that needs to be addressed now.
“We call on the authorities to take all necessary measures against the growing anti-migrant rhetoric, aggression, and violence circulating on Lesbos, and to take action against those who have harassed and attacked humanitarian actors.”