Evros: Migrants suffer in border police stations amid recent extreme weather conditions

February 29, 2012

Evros: Migrants suffer in border police stations amid recent extreme weather conditions © Yannis Kolesidis

The constant arrival of migrants in Greece’s Evros region, coupled with the extreme weather conditions of the past few weeks, has been putting pressure on the already fragile system for receiving migrants in the border police stations of Soufli, Tychero and Feres and the detention center of Filakio.

“The newly arrived migrants were spending up to a day in waiting areas in freezing temperatures,” says Antonio Virgilio, head of mission for MSF operations in Greece.

“Migrants have already suffered harsh conditions on their journeys to cross the border. Once in Greece, they had to wait for hours, without warm clothes to protect them from the extreme cold, and sometimes without receiving a medical check-up from Ministry of Health doctors.”

There is no heating in the waiting areas of the three Evros border police stations, and migrants are not provided with extra clothes, sleeping bags, survival blankets or other means of keeping warm. “The reception conditions are unacceptable,” says Virgilio.

An emergency team from MSF has been responding to the migrants’ immediate needs in the three border police stations and in Filakio detention centre. The team is on call 24 hours a day, conducting medical triage and providing migrants with warm clothes, sleeping bags, survival blankets and hygiene kits. During the first four days of intervention, the MSF team assisted 125 migrants, including women and children, who arrived shivering, exhausted and complaining of pain in their legs.

The team plans to make improvements to the waiting areas so that migrants receive at least some protection from the sometimes extreme cold.

The Greek authorities are building a new facility, the Poros transit centre, which should be functional by mid-March. All newly arrived migrants will be registered in the new centre, while MSF will carry out medical triage.

In 2011, 54,974 undocumented migrants and asylum seekers were apprehended for irregularly crossing the border into Greece’s Evros region.

During 2011, MSF doctors provided medical treatment to 2,689 migrants at the border police stations and detention facilities of Filakio, Soufli, Tychero, Feres and Venna. The majority were suffering from respiratory infections, gastrointestinal problems and skin infections due to the poor living conditions and overcrowding.

Sixteen migrants were suffering from frostbite and were given first aid. A number of whom were in a severe condition were referred to hospital.

MSF logisticians distributed over 12,300 sleeping bags, 18,900 socks, 5,900 gloves and hats and 18,400 hygiene kits.

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