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 2020 in Greece
Data and information from the International Activity Report 2020.
By March, more than 20,000 men, women and children were held in undignified conditions in Moria, a reception centre on Lesbos island with an official capacity of 3,000. COVID-19 lockdown measures further restricted their capacity to move, buy food and access healthcare or legal assistance.
MSF runs a clinic outside Moria to provide sexual and reproductive healthcare, and general healthcare and mental health support for children. In June, we opened an emergency COVID-19 isolation centre, which the local authorities forced us to close soon after. On the night of 7 September, Moria was completely destroyed by several fires and more than 12,000 people were displaced. We rapidly sent mobile clinics and opened an additional clinic to respond to urgent needs. People were moved to a new camp where, by the end of the year, 7,000 people were still living in tents.
On Samos island, at times there were as many as 8,000 people living in Vathy reception centre, which was originally planned for 650. The authorities’ COVID-19 response was inadequate, with only a handful of medical staff and unacceptable quarantining options for infected people. During 2020, MSF provided toilets and thousands of litres of water per day to help prevent health problems associated with poor water and sanitation. In Vathy town, our day centre continued to offer mental health support and sexual and reproductive healthcare, focusing on sexual violence.
In Athens, we treated victims of torture at a specialised clinic and, at a day centre we manage, we offered social and legal assistance, as well as health services. From July, we supported an increasing number of refugees with severe health and psychological issues at risk of eviction from their accommodation.
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
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
EU must stop trapping people in miserable conditions on the Greek islands
Enough is enough: new pact, same misery for refugees
European policies of deterrence and containment degrade human life
Detainment of fifth search and rescue ship in five months condemns people to die at sea
15 Xenias St.
115 27 Athens