Greece: Urgent need for medical and psychosocial assistance for detained migrants

MSF resumes activities in the detention facilities for undocumented migrants in Evros and Rodopi

The situation for migrants kept in the detention facilities in Evros and Rodopi, northern Greece, is once again critical. For almost a month now, no medical care has been provided to migrants and asylum seekers in the detention facilities, as the teams of the Ministry of Health have been unable to continue the provision of medical and psychosocial care. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has decided to resume medical activities in the region with the aim to respond to the urgent and unmet needs of detained migrants.  

“As of the 31st of July, due to funding shortages no Ministry of Health medical staff was working in any of the detention facilities of Evros and Rodopi. After a short exploratory visit we decided to start working again in the detention facilities. The needs in medical care, psychosocial support and humanitarian assistance are enormous,” says Ioanna PERTSINIDOU, MSF’s emergency coordinator. Every day, more than 250 migrants, including children and pregnant women as well as many refugees from Syria, cross the Greek-Turkish borders and arrive in the detention facilities in critical condition, exhausted and without food and water. “Despite the significant reduction in the number of the people detained, we observed no substantial improvement in the dreadful living and hygiene conditions in these places,” adds Pertsinidou. The number of migrants and refugees crossing the borders is expected to increase dramatically in the forthcoming months.

During the third week of August, a team of 8 MSF staff has started providing medical care and psychosocial support and commenced activities for the improvement of living and hygiene conditions in the border police stations of Tychero, Soufli and Feres and the detention centres of Filakio and Venna. “We see an undisputable necessity for our teams to be there, as no one else is currently providing care for these people,” says Pertsinidou.

MSF urges Greek and EU authorities to ensure adequate medical care and psychosocial support for detained migrants, as well as dignified living conditions in detention facilities, including appropriate accommodation, sufficient distribution of food, clothing and personal hygiene items, and adequate periods of time outdoors.  

MSF has been providing medical care and psychosocial support to migrants and asylum seekers in Greece since 1996. Since the beginning of December 2010, MSF teams have been providing healthcare and working to improve living and hygiene conditions in the migrants’ detention facilities of Evros.  In early March 2011, MSF handed over its medical activities to teams deployed by the Ministry of Health, but continued to distribute relief items to detained migrants.