Last updated 22 December 2016
Following the closure of the main Balkan migration route towards Western Europe, more than 47,000 refugees and migrants are stranded on mainland Greece, living in precarious, often appalling conditions in more than 60 different official and unofficial sites around the country. More than 13,000 people are stuck on the Greek islands, living mostly in overcrowded hotspots (mainly in Lesbos, Chios, Kos and Samos) awaiting an interview or a decision on their asylum case.
MSF is currently active in more than 20 different locations across the country, providing mainly mental healthcare, sexual and reproductive healthcare, and care to patients suffering from chronic diseases. In addition, MSF organised a vaccination campaign to support the Ministry of Health that reached more than 7,000 children between six weeks and 15 years of age in more than 15 locations across the country.
MSF currently provides mental health and psychiatric care and conducts health promotion activities in five camps (Kalochori, Frakapor, Softex, Derveni, Kavalari) around Thessaloniki. MSF also provides translation and cultural mediation support to three Ministry of Health hospitals. In early 2017, MSF will open a clinic, centralising its medical activities around mental health, sexual and reproductive health and treatment of chronic diseases using a holistic approach and healthcare model. MSF will collaborate with other partners in the clinic who will provide legal and social support and psycho-social activities. Since October 2016, MSF performed 474 mental health consultations (61 first assessments and 413 follow-up consultations).
In Frakapor camp, MSF implemented emergency winterisation measures at the beginning of December 2016. No plans for winter preparation had taken place up until that point. MSF installed heaters outside the large warehouse that blow hot air into the structure where refugees are sheltering in tents. The absence of winterisation measures and plans is a result of the lack coordination between actors. MSF continues to monitor the winterisation measures in the camps surrounding Thessaloniki and is also supporting volunteer networks providing relief items for distribution on an as-needed basis.
Ionnina – Epirus
Since the end of April 2016, MSF has been working in the refugee camps in Epirus in northwestern of Greece. At the moment, MSF is active in four different locations, namely Katsikas and Faneromeni near the city of Ioannina, as well as more isolated areas like Doliana and Tsepelovo. In early December 2016, MSF expanded those activities to include Filipiada and Konitsa. MSF teams provide specialised healthcare (clinical psychological care and psychiatric care) to the predominantly Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi people living in camps in this region. Since May, our teams have provided 658 individual consultations and 103 family consultations to a total of 130 patients suffering mainly from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety disorders.
MSF also works in collaboration with Solidarity Now, an organisation that supports the housing program coordinated by UNHCR. In hotels and living arrangements provided under this scheme, MSF provides psychological and psychiatric care.
MSF is currently providing mental healthcare and sexual reproductive health to the predominantly Syrian families living in an old hotel in Thermopiles, visiting twice per month to assist approximately 600 refugees living in the camp.
Since the signing of the EU-Turkey agreement, MSF suspended its activities inside the hotspot of Moria in protest of an inhumane agreement that has real human consequences. MSF provides mobile health promotion and outreach at the camp, referring patients to our clinic in Mytilene.
In October, MSF opened a clinic providing secondary medical care services for all refugees and migrants residing in any location on the island of Lesbos (Kara Tepe camp, Moria hot-spot, and other alternative shelters). The clinic is situated in the town of Mytilene and is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm by appointment. It provides mental health care, sexual and reproductive health care (gynaecology, pregnancy care, family planning, care to victims of sexual violence, etc), as well as care to people suffering from chronic diseases (heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease and asthma, epilepsy, etc). MSF covers the transportation costs for migrants to and from their camp to reach the centre.
MSF has been working on the Island of Samos since November 2015. Today, medical activities are concentrated around mental health and health promotion outreach provided by one psychologist, one social worker and three cultural mediators. MSF has also partnered with the Greek Council for Refugees to provide legal information and assistance on asylum claims.
Inside the Samos hotspot, conditions are rapidly worsening. The camp was built to hold 600 people last year. Today the population has grown to over 2,000 people. Tents are scattered across the area, in walkways, behind container housing, and across cleared patches of forest area. Newly arriving migrants lack adequate living quarters and are often forgotten. Many unaccompanied minors and pregnant women have been identified in these new areas. They have not been provided with standard protection as the camp managers are completely overwhelmed due to the increase in population. The container housing originally set up to house the migrants is dilapidated; some have been burned to the ground, others have broken windows and holes in the flooring.
MSF also operates a temporary shelter for vulnerable people inside the city of Samos. Currently, 40 people are provided shelter, mostly women, children and those requiring urgent medical treatment on the mainland. An MSF nurse makes rounds in the shelter and helps refugees make their referral appointments at the local hospital.
MSF also continues to provide in-kind donations to volunteer groups and the local hospital.
Urban Day Care Centre
Responding to the medical needs of refugees and migrants residing all around the city, MSF opened an urban day care centre in the centre of Athens in September for all vulnerable people. The centre provides psychological care as well as sexual reproductive care (antenatal, gynaecological, pregnancy, post-natal care, treatment for sexually transmitted infections and diseases, and support to victims of sexual violence). An urban outreach team also provides health promotion and education sessions. In addition, MSF facilitates patient transfer to public health facilities when needed. MSF also provides patients with Arabic- or Farsi-speaking cultural mediators.
Vaccination campaign, Athens
In cooperation with Athens Municipality, Médecins Sans Frontières vaccinated 1629 refugee children who live in urban settings under the official accommodation scheme as well as those who have taken refuge in squats around the city of Athens. The target population of this campaign was children from eight weeks to 17 years of age and a complete relevant package of essential vaccinations against common childhood diseases was available (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, haemophilus influenza, hepatitis B, polio, pneumococcus and chicken pox).
Since February 2016, MSF has been providing primary healthcare to migrants during evening hours in an urban care centre in Victoria square. In May, MSF expanded its activities to cover mental healthcare as well. MSF works with the Greek National Health System, referring more serious cases to the local hospitals for follow up. The square is near the central train station and was used by thousands of migrants last year to continue their journey when borders were open. Historically, Victoria Square has been an unofficial meeting point for migrants and refugees who are currently residing, or stranded, in the city.
Regional mobile clinics
MSF is providing mental healthcare to approximately 1,200 refugees living in the camps of Malakasa, Lavrio and Ritsona in the region northeast of Athens. These migrants and refugees have suffered systematic violence in their countries of origin, during their journey or during their stay in Greece.
MSF mobile clinics are active in three camps at the Elliniko site: in the abandoned airport’s arrival hall and in two Olympic sports stadiums, where approximately 2,400 people are still living in substandard conditions. MSF provides sexual and reproductive healthcare and mental healthcare, distributes hygiene kits and conducts health promotion activities.
Victims of torture
Since late 2014, MSF has operated a project in Athens Greece providing comprehensive care to survivors of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, in cooperation with Day Centre Babel and the Greek Council for Refugees. MSF aims to assist survivors with the medical and mental health problems resulting from the systematic violence they have been subjected to. In addition to medical, psychiatric and psychological care, survivors of torture are offered legal aid, social support, and integration services.
Between October 2014 and December 2016, more than 350 people from 38 countries received care from MSF medical doctors, physiotherapists, psychologists and social workers. The majority of patients presented with musculoskeletal and neurological residuals and with symptoms of PTSD, extreme anxiety and depression.
Activities 2015 International Activity Report
More than 856,000 refugees and migrants arrived by sea or land in Greece in 2015, making it the main entry point for people attempting to reach Europe.
Volunteers and civil society organisations mobilised to help new arrivals, and MSF provided healthcare. A third of the people landing on Greece’s shores were women and children. Approximately 91 per cent came from countries affected by war and violence – predominantly Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. Most disembarked on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros. On Lesbos alone, as many as 6,000 people were arriving each day in October.
Lesbos and Samos
In July, MSF opened clinics in Moria and Kara Tepe camps on Lesbos and set up a mobile clinic in the port, where thousands of people waited out in the open in sweltering heat to travel on to Athens. MSF improved water and sanitation facilities, provided waste management and installed chemical toilets and water points in Moria. The team also organised buses to transport new arrivals to the registration centres, located 70 kilometres away, and for medical referrals. A transit centre was opened in Matamados to provide assistance to new arrivals, including shelter, transportation, food, blankets and wi-fi (enabling contact with families and friends). Over 16,100 medical consultations were carried out and 3,000 people received mental health support.
An MSF team began to offer medical assistance to people landing on Samos in October. A mobile team welcomed them and transferred them to the registration office at the main port, where staff conducted medical consultations. The team also distributed relief items and an average of 540 meals a day to those living in the reception centre.
MSF was the only humanitarian organisation present on Agathonisi, a small island near Samos. A team met arrivals and provided shelter and medical care.
Year MSF first worked in the country: 1991.
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