Providing medical and humanitarian assistance to migrants and refugees

An MSF doctors carries a young patient to MSF's mobile clinic in Moria camp, Greece.
GREECE 2018 © Kevin McElvaney/MSF
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This information is excerpted from MSF’s 2017 International Activity Report.

Migrants and refugees continue to be the focus of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) activities on the Greek mainland and the islands of Lesbos, Samos, and Chios.

MSF has provided medical and humanitarian assistance to migrants and refugees in Greece since 1996. These activities expanded in 2014 to meet the needs of the increasing numbers reaching the Greek shores from Turkey. Since the EU-Turkey deal in March 2016, many have been prevented from leaving the Greek islands while waiting for a decision on their claim for asylum. They spend long periods of time with poor access to health care and the fear of being sent back to Turkey. Those who reach the mainland often live in inadequate conditions, waiting for their refugee status or relocation to camps or flats. MSF continued to provide medical services in Athens and other parts of the Greek mainland, as well as on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, and Chios. Between January and December 2017, MSF teams conducted almost 19,600 consultations.

Greek islands

MSF has been running a clinic on Lesbos providing primary health care, treatment for chronic diseases, sexual and reproductive health services, and mental health support since October 2016. Since August 2017, the team has focused on the needs of survivors of torture and sexual violence, and people with severe mental health conditions. In November, MSF set up an additional clinic in front of Moria camp to increase access to medical care for children under 16 years of age and pregnant women living in terrible conditions inside the camp.

On Samos, MSF runs a temporary shelter for up to 80 people for families of pregnant women, newborns, or single parents. MSF also provides mental health support to patients and, in partnership with the Greek Council for Refugees, offers individual legal assistance. MSF conducted a vaccination campaign for children hosted in shelters and assisted national authorities with vaccinations in the ‘hotspot’. Teams also intervened in Vathy Police Station, to improve living conditions and access to medical and mental health care for detainees.

In December, MSF started working on the island of Chios, providing cultural mediation services at the local hospital.


MSF has been running three clinics in Athens to respond to the specific needs of migrants and refugees. In the day center, MSF provides sexual and reproductive health care, mental health support, and treatment for chronic diseases. In September, teams also started running a travel medicine clinic to provide support to people moving on from Athens.

In a second center MSF offers comprehensive care to survivors of torture and other forms of violence. The clinic, run in collaboration with Day Center Babel and the Greek Council for Refugees, implements a multidisciplinary approach including medical and mental health care, physiotherapy, social assistance, and legal support.

In a third center near Victoria Square, MSF provided primary health care and mental health support until December, and is assisting the municipal clinic with cultural mediation services.

Greek mainland

In Epirus, MSF provided psychological and psychiatric care to people living in and around Ioannina until December. Mobile teams also operated in the wider Attika region around Athens, as well as Central Greece, throughout the year.

Around Thessaloniki, MSF offered psychological and psychiatric care, as well as health promotion in several camps, along with support to local hospitals, until July.