Greece: More than 60 percent of the medical problems faced by detained migrants caused by inhumane living and hygiene conditions
June 19, 2011
In a report issued today by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the international medical humanitarian organisation emphasises that inhumane living and hygiene conditions in migrants’ detention facilities in Evros region are causing major health concerns for detained migrants. According to MSF medical data, more than 60 percent of the medical problems faced by detained migrants are directly caused by or linked to the degrading conditions in which they are being held.
Out of the 1,809 patients treated by MSF doctors between December 2010 and March 2011, 1,147 were diagnosed with respiratory tract infections, body pains, diarrhoea, gastrointestinal disorders, psychological complaints and skin diseases. “Most of the migrants we have treated were not ill when they first entered the detention facilities. They fell sick having being held in overcrowded cells lacking proper ventilation, with water and sanitation problems, no quality food and no possibility to spend time outdoors,” says Ioanna Pertsinidou, coordinator of MSF’s project for migrants in Greece.
During the first two months of 2011, at least 22 people lost their lives in their efforts to cross the border between Turkey and Greece in Evros region.
From MSF’s experience working in the detention facilities for migrants and asylum seekers in Evros, there is no evidence indicating that migrants entering Greece pose a public health risk to Greek society, as recently stated by Greece’s Minister of Health. On the contrary, it is the inhumane living and hygiene conditions in these facilities – where some migrants are kept for up to six months – that are causing significant deterioration to their physical and mental health. These detention conditions significantly increase the risk of communicable disease outbreaks, as was also stated in a report published in May 2011 by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization.
MSF urges Greek authorities to ensure dignified living conditions in detention facilities, including appropriate accommodation, sufficient distribution of food, clothing and personal hygiene items, and adequate periods of time outdoors. It is essential to ensure migrants receive adequate medical care and mental healthcare, to initiate systematic medical screening for new arrivals, and to support timely secondary referral and follow-up of chronic diseases. The Ministries of Health and Citizens Protection should ensure coordination among the involved stakeholders – locally, nationally and at EU level – and maximise the timely use of existing funds and resources.
In early March 2011, MSF handed over its medical activities to teams deployed by the Ministry of Health, but continues to distribute relief items to detained migrants. Despite the availability of European funds, conditions in the detention facilities have not improved.
MSF has been providing medical care and psychosocial support to migrants and asylum seekers in Greece since 1996. Since the beginning of December 2010, MSF teams have been providing healthcare and working to improve living and hygiene conditions in the border police stations of Tychero, Soufli and Feres and in the detention centre of Filakio. MSF doctors have treated 1,809 migrants, 18 of whom were under five years old. MSF psychologists have provided mental health support to 75 migrants. MSF staff have distributed over 8,480 sleeping bags, over 15,500 pairs of socks, 4,500 pairs of gloves, 4,500 hats and 10,000 hygiene kits.