© Alessandro Penso


Thousands of migrants and refugees are stranded on the Greek islands, without access to basic services, adequate shelter or information on their legal status


Located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, Greece is a major entry point for refugees and migrants making the journey to Europe.

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Until March 2016, thousands of people fleeing war and persecution were arriving on Greek islands every day before continuing their journeys across Europe.

However, the closure of the Balkan route and the EU deal with Turkey in March left migrants and refugees stranded, without access to basic services, adequate shelter or information on their legal status.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) first began working with refugees in Greece in 1996.

Migrants and refugees continue to be the focus of MSF activities on the Greek mainland and the islands of Lesbos, Samos and Chios.

Today, our attention is focused towards Greece’s Dodecanese islands – the islands where many refugees first make land in desperate conditions – and on the border with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

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Greece: Key information

Greek islands

In March 2020, we expanded our projects with migrants and refugees to start assisting with the COVID-19 response in Greece.

In the migrant hotspots of Samos and Lesbos islands, we are providing health information to camp residents and have all procedures in place to support referrals of patients with symptoms of COVID-19 to hospitals.

We have adapted our facilities and procedures to ensure the safety of our patients and staff. Operations in the camps are being scaled up and we are starting to recruit additional medical, paramedical and support staff.

An emergency plan for Moria refugee camp on Lesbos island is ready in case we need to respond to a spread of the disease there.

Discussions are underway with the Ministry of Health to see how we can coordinate with them and offer more support.

Since the so-called 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 victims of torture and sexual violence.

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