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Background: 2013

This is an extract from our latest Activity Report, looking back on our work in the previous year.

Undocumented migrants and asylum seekers in Greece face long periods of detention in centres with limited access to basic services and healthcare.

Medical assistance to migrants and refugees in Greece - an MSF report

Migrants and asylum seekers of all ages can find themselves summarily arrested and confined in detention centres for up to 18 months. They have little or no opportunity to communicate with their families, and their physical and mental health often deteriorates.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has responded to the situation by providing medical consultations and psychological support to people being held at detention centres in Komotini, Filakio and Drama, and in the police stations of Feres, Soufli, Tychero and North Iasmos. Items including clothes, sleeping bags, towels and soap have also been distributed in centres to help people maintain a basic level of hygiene, health and dignity.

These activities were handed over to the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention in April. Five months later, MSF resumed assistance at Filakio and Komotini, and Feres, Soufli and North Iasmos as no medical or humanitarian assistance was being provided by the authorities.

The team also responded to two outbreaks of scabies – a parasitic skin infestation that spreads rapidly in crowded conditions – in the detention facilities.

More than 2,000 people were treated between January and April and September and December.

Healthcare out of reach

The financial crisis in Greece has led to the country’s health budget being cut by almost 40 per cent, and state funds for medication have also been almost halved. As a consequence there is limited availability of medicine, not only for vulnerable groups like the unemployed and the uninsured, but also for the general population.

In October, an MSF team began assisting people in need of healthcare at food distribution centres in Athens. On-the-spot care, including medical consultations, hospital referrals and psychosocial referrals for shelter and legal assistance were provided. Many patients were unemployed or elderly.

Freezing temperatures in early 2013 led authorities to open temporary emergency shelters to accommodate homeless people in Athens, and MSF launched an emergency intervention in January.

At the end of 2012, MSF had 12 field staff in Greece. MSF has been providing medical assistance in the country since 1991.

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