On Thursday October 20, 2022, an emergency team from the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) provided urgent medical and psychological care to a group of 22 migrants and asylum seekers—four of whom had reportedly been beaten—who had recently arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos. MSF found the group after receiving an official alert about their need for emergency assistance. When the team arrived, they found three people tightly handcuffed and four injured, reportedly from beatings by a group of people posing as doctors offering food and assistance.
“As we were approaching the location on a mountain, we started hearing people screaming,” said Teo di Piazza, MSF project coordinator in Lesvos. “We were worried and started running in their direction. When we arrived, we found 22 people [including children]. Everybody was crying. Three people were handcuffed very tightly with plastic [zip ties]. Four others were injured. Based on their reports, the injuries were due to violence from a group of people who had left when we approached.”
MSF teams have heard similar accounts of violence from others who arrived on Lesvos and Samos islands to seek safety after a traumatic journey at sea. MSF finds these reports extremely concerning and urges the appropriate state authorities to take all necessary measures to stop such incidents from happening and ensure people have access to safe reception, protection, and asylum procedures.
“According to testimonies, shortly before we arrived, seven or eight people were approaching the group, saying they were doctors and they had food,” said di Piazza. “They reportedly started to beat them and handcuff them as soon as they found them. And when they heard us [MSF], the group told us those other people immediately ran away.”
Everyone in the group was in shock when the MSF team arrived. “We could see people were in a critical state,” said di Piazza. “We had to call one of our psychologists to provide emergency psychological first aid to the group.”
The MSF team informed the police authorities of the incident and supported the referral of injured people to the hospital for further medical care. They also provided follow-up care to the group the next day.
On the islands of Lesvos and Samos, MSF teams coordinate with humanitarian and protection organizations, including UNHCR, and local state authorities who alert MSF to people who need medical assistance. MSF provides people who have recently arrived on the islands with medical and psychological first aid, distributes food, water, and dry clothes, and coordinates with local public health services for referrals to hospital if needed. Local police then transfer people to the camp for registration after five days of quarantine. Since August 2021, MSF teams on Lesvos and Samos islands have provided emergency medical assistance to 2,225 people.