MSF calls for emergency evacuation of vulnerable people to other EU Member States

The medical and humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders/(MSF) is witnessing an unprecedented health and mental health emergency amongst the men, women and especially children kept in Moria camp, on Lesvos, Greece. MSF is calling for the emergency evacuation of all vulnerable people, especially children, to safe accommodation on the Greek mainland and within the European Union.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Greece, Refugees trapped in Moria
An Afghan refugee wears a rubbish bag to keep himself dry during a rainstorm at the Moria Reception Centre while he waits for his documents on the island of Lesbos. Photo: Alessandro Penso/MAPS

The policy of containing  asylum seekers on Greek islands has led to more than 9,000 people, a third of whom are children, being stuck indefinitely in the Moria camp that has a maximum capacity of 3,100 people.

MSF teams are seeing multiple cases each week of teenagers who have attempted to commit suicide or self-harmed, and are responding to numerous critical incidents as a result of violence, child self-harm and lack of access to urgent medical care, highlighting significant gaps in the protection of children and other vulnerable people.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Greece, Refugees in Moria
There are currently close to 11,000 asylum seekers on Lesvos island, with the current population in Moria and the Olive Grove reaching 9,000+, despite a capacity for 3,100 people. Photo: Robin Hammond/Witness Change

Between February and June this year, in a group mental health activity for children (between 6-18 years), MSF teams observed that nearly a quarter of the children (18 of our 74) had self-harmed, attempted suicide or had thought about committing suicide. Other child patients suffer from elective mutism, panic attacks, anxiety, aggressive outbursts and constant nightmares.

“These children come from countries in war, where they have experienced very extreme violence and trauma. Rather than receiving care and protection in Europe, they are instead subjected to ongoing fear, stress and episodes of further violence, including sexual violence,” says Dr. Declan Barry, MSF’s medical coordinator in Greece.  “Moreover, the environment is unsafe and unsanitary, and as a result we see many cases of recurrent diarrhea and skin infections in children of all ages. At this level of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, the risk of outbreaks is very high”.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Greece, Refugees in Moria
Refugees and migrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan inside Moria Camp. Photo: MSF

In the first two weeks of September alone, more than 1,500 people arrived on Lesvos, and with no space left, they are now sleeping without any shelter, without sufficient food and with extremely limited access to medical care. MSF has treated many children who have been identified by the hospital as needing care in Athens, however due to a lack of accommodation on the mainland, these children cannot access that care, and so are forced to live in an environment where their medical condition and mental health deteriorates.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, Greece, refugees in Moria
MSF teams provide medical and mental health support outside Moria camp and run a clinic for severe mental health cases in Mytilene, the capital of the island. Photo: Robin Hammond/Witness Change

“This is the third year that MSF has been calling on the Greek authorities and the EU to take responsibility for their collective failures and to put in place sustainable solutions to avoid this catastrophic situation,” says Louise Roland-Gosselin, MSF’s Head of Mission in Greece.It is time to immediately evacuate the most vulnerable to safe accommodation in other European countries and to stop this never-ending cycle of emergency decongestions and the horrendous conditions we continue to witness in Moria. It is time to end the EU-Turkey deal.”


Read open letter from MSF Psychiatrist on the mental health emergency in Moria