© Alessandro Penso


More than 50,000 migrants and refugees from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq arrived in Greece in 2018.*

MSF's response to coronavirus in Greece

17 March 2020

From what we know, there has not been a confirmed case of COVID-19 among asylum seekers trapped on the Greek islands.

However, asylum seekers in camps such as Moria are very vulnerable to an outbreak of the new coronavirus as they are forced to live in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions that facilitate the spread of disease.

The Greek Government is yet to announce measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in camps on the islands. MSF is in contact with the National Public Health Organisation in order to coordinate actions, including health information and case management, but we need to be realistic: there is no way we can contain the virus in a humane and dignified way in such camp settings.

Our priority will be always the safety and the security of our patients and our staff, and we are determined to keep our clinics in Samos, Lesbos and Athens as operational as possible. At the same time, we have increased call for the camps to be evacuated in light of the global pandemic.

learn more about covid-19 >


We continue to provide medical services to migrants and refugees in Athens and other parts of the Greek mainland, as well as on the islands of Lesbos, Samos and Chios. 

Map with all MSF projects in 2019

Since the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal in March 2016, thousands of people on the move have remained trapped for an indeterminate period of time in five hotspots in the five Aegean Islands – Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros – and forced to live in inhumane and degrading conditions while they wait for a decision on their asylum claims.

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MSF's work in Greece: 2019

In 2019, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams conducted almost 46,600 outpatient consultations across Greece. During the second half of 2019, the humanitarian situation in the five reception centres quickly deteriorated.

At the same time, the new Greek government approved a new, stricter law on international protection, which reduced the already limited ability of asylum seekers to obtain healthcare. The new law also means that minors can now be detained, and post-traumatic stress disorder no longer qualifies as a vulnerability. As a result, even extremely vulnerable people have to spend long periods living in precarious conditions, which exacerbates their medical and mental health problems.

On Lesbos, we continued to run a paediatric clinic outside Moria camp offering general healthcare and mental health support to minors, and sexual and reproductive health services to pregnant women. In Mytilene town, we treated victims of torture and sexual violence, as well as people with severe mental health problems caused by trauma in their countries of origin, on their journeys to Greece, or by the stress and insecurity of their situation in Moria. In response to the massive increase in arrivals on Samos, we scaled up our activities. We installed a water and sanitation system for the people who live around the official reception centre, providing them with clean drinking water and toilets.

This is the first step in an intervention that will also involve the construction of showers, to prevent health problems associated with water shortage and poor hygiene. Near the camp, we run a day centre offering mental health support and sexual and reproductive healthcare. Our services on Chios include general healthcare, sexual and reproductive healthcare, mental health support, social care and travel medicine for people at Vial camp, as well as cultural mediation services at the local hospital.

We run two clinics in Athens to respond to the specific needs of people on the move. The first, a day centre, provides sexual and reproductive healthcare, mental health support, treatment for chronic and complex diseases, social and legal assistance, as well as travel medicine for people planning to move on from Greece.

The second offers comprehensive care to victims of torture and other forms of violence and is managed in collaboration with two other organisations, the Day Centre Babel and the Greek Council for Refugees. It implements a multidisciplinary approach, comprising medical and mental healthcare, physiotherapy, and social and legal assistance.

Greek islands

Since the so-called EU-Turkey deal in March 2016, migrants and refugees who were in transit through the Greek islands have been trapped, waiting for their status to be determined. Consequently, they spend long periods in inadequate reception centres, with poor access to healthcare and the fear of being sent back to Turkey, which exacerbates their medical and mental health problems. We continued to denounce this deal and its dramatic impact on the health of men, women and children trapped on the islands in 2018.


Vathy camp, built for 650 people, hosts more than 7,300, including over 2,500 children. Samos, Greece, November 2019.

​Since 2016, we have been running a clinic on Lesbos offering primary healthcare, sexual and reproductive health services and mental health support. In late 2017, we set up an additional clinic outside Moria reception centre, providing the same services for children under 16, pregnant women and victims of sexual violence. We also have a team in Mytilene town treating patients with severe mental health conditions caused by trauma and violence in their country of origin or on their journey to Greece. Many of our patients, including minors, reported that the insecure and inhumane conditions in Moria itself played a major part in pushing them towards despair, self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

On Chios, we provide primary healthcare, sexual and reproductive healthcare, mental health support and social care for refugees and migrants. We have cultural mediators and social workers in the hospital on the island, and in April started running travel medicine services to guarantee healthcare continuity for patients in transit, including health advice, vaccinations, medication and referrals to MSF services in Athens.

Until April, we also provided mental healthcare, health promotion and temporary shelter for people in the town of Vathy, on the island of Samos, which hosts mostly women, children and patients requiring urgent medical treatment on the mainland.


We run two clinics in Athens to respond to the specific needs of migrants and refugees.

At our ‘day care centre’, teams provide sexual and reproductive healthcare, mental health support, social care and treatment for chronic diseases.

In our second centre, run in collaboration with Day Centre Babel and the Greek Council for Refugees, we offer comprehensive care to victims of torture, ill-treatment and other forms of degrading treatment. The clinic’s multidisciplinary approach comprises medical and mental healthcare, physiotherapy, social assistance and legal support.

Northern Greece

In response to the huge increase in arrivals (more than 18,000 in 2018 compared with around 6,500 in 2017), and the absolute lack of healthcare provision by the Ministry of Health, in July we sent a team to work in the reception and identification centre in Fylakio, in Evros region, on the border with Turkey, until the end of the year. We provided general healthcare consultations, sexual and reproductive health and travel medicine consultations.

*UNHCR Operational Portal, Mediterranean Situation


 find out more in our international activity report >  

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