Since the EU-Turkey deal in March 2016, migrants and refugees previously in transit through the Greek islands have been trapped there for an indeterminate time in overcrowded, unsafe and unhygienic conditions, without access to basic services, adequate shelter or information on their legal status.
We provide medical and mental healthcare to migrants on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Samos, as well as in Athens. Our activities include vaccinating migrant children against common childhood diseases, providing sexual and reproductive healthcare, treating chronic diseases and providing care for survivors of torture and sexual violence.
Our teams in Lesbos and Samos have reported overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions while being contained on the islands. We have made repeated calls on the European Union to completely change its approach to migration, which is causing avoidable harm to the health and wellbeing of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.
Our activities in 2021 in Greece
Data and information from the International Activity Report 2021.
Cuts in spending on housing programmes for asylum seekers and the withdrawal of cash assistance for recognised refugees have meant that many more people face the risk of ending up living on the streets, with insufficient food or access to shelter and hygiene facilities.
In 2021, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continued to provide mental health services, sexual and reproductive healthcare and social support to migrants and refugees on Lesbos and Samos islands. In June, we opened a clinic opposite the Mavrovouni centre on Lesbos to be closer to our patients. Our staff witnessed the severe impact that the precarious living conditions, arbitrary asylum procedures and fear of deportation were having on people’s physical and mental health.
On Samos island, in September, the EU and Greece inaugurated a detention-like reception and identification centre in Zervou, an isolated area far from the main town. The centre is surrounded by three barbed-wire fences, and people’s movements are strictly controlled. Our team moved nearer the centre to make it easier for people to access care. Between August and November, we also offered first aid to people arriving on Samos by boat. This intervention enabled us not only to ensure people’s safe landing, but also to bear witness to their reception by the authorities.
In Athens, we run a day centre for migrants, where social, legal and a range of healthcare services are available. In June, we launched a health promotion campaign to encourage and support migrants in Athens to register for COVID-19 vaccination. At the end of 2021, after seven years of operations, we closed our specialised clinic for victims of torture, referring patients still in need of treatment and long-term support to our day centre and other organisations.
Voices from the field
I am overwhelmed by the severity of each referral that arrives in my inbox…Dr Liz Clark, working in Moria, on the Greek island of Lesbos
Fear, beatings and forced returns for people seeking safety on Greek island of Samos
A revolution in safe abortion care
“We can only help our patients to survive” new camp on Samos
One year on from Moria fire, EU denies dignity to migrants trapped on Greek islands
Greece and EU must change approach to migration as scale of people’s suffering revealed
Constructing Crisis at Europe’s Border
Open letter to Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner of Home Affairs
Alarming mental health distress among asylum seekers on Greek islands
Negligent and dangerous COVID-19 response in Vathy camp, Samos
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