Crossing Borders: Our Response to the Refugee Crisis - Doctors of the World

Crossing Borders: Our Response to the Refugee Crisis

Europe is currently experiencing the largest mass migration of people since the Second World War. Yet, an organized, unilateral response to the migrant crisis is noticeably lacking. The majority of migrants and refugees are arriving from Syria, fleeing the civil war that has ravaged the country since 2011. Thousands more have arrived from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Eritrea. The EU’s external border force, Frontex, has estimated that more than 700,000 people have entered Europe’s borders in 2015 so far.

Médecins du Monde (MdM)/Doctors of the World has been caring for Syrian migrants and refugees since the early days of the conflict. In addition, our teams in Greece have been working tirelessly on the front lines of this latest humanitarian crisis. But our work, like the migrants and refugees themselves, has crossed many borders.

Below is a brief overview of MdM’s work to-date to aid migrants and refugees – from the Middle East, throughout the Mediterranean, and across Europe.


In Belgium, MdM has set up a consultation site staffed by doctors, nurses, psychologists and interpreters within walking distance of the main migrant and refugee registration area. Up to 1,000 migrants sleep outdoors each night, without shelter of any kind.


MdM is providing care to migrants and refugees at Croatia’s Bapska border-crossing with Serbia. By the end of September, 90,000 people had crossed into Croatia. Our team has been treating migrants and refugees with a variety of conditions resulting from their journeys, such as pneumonia, injuries, respiratory infections and dehydration.

France – Calais

In Calais, our team is currently gathering statements from migrants and refugees about physical assaults between communities and at the hands of local police. Over a period of just four days the team also performed 393 medical consultations and treated 148 people, in addition to providing psychological support to those who have experienced violence during their time at the camp.

French-Italian Border

One of our MdM mobile units was active in the city of Vintimille on the French-Italian border, conducting as many as 654 consultations per visit. However, on September 30th 2015, the residents of the border camp were forcibly removed by the local police and the border was closed.


In Germany, MdM set up operations in Munich’s central bus station to provide the migrants and refugees with basic medical care and social counseling. The team has also assisted people with obtaining prescriptions for medicine and referrals for future treatment. On average, they treat over 50 people per night. It is estimated that 1.5 million refugees and migrants will arrive in Germany between October and December 2015.


In Greece, MdM has been carrying out medical consultations for migrants and refugees arriving from Turkey to the island of Lesbos. Between 1,500 – 3,000 people arrive on Lesbos every day, and our team performs 150 – 400 daily consultations – effectively reaching 10% of the migrant and refugee population on the island.

MdM has also been treating 100 – 200 people per day in the transit area of Idomeni on the Greek border with Macedonia, through which 5,000 – 7,000 people travel each day. And in Athens and the surrounding areas, our team runs several clinics and mobile programs that deliver primary healthcare and medication to over 3,000 migrants and refugees.


In three months alone, our MdM team in Iraq has provided 25,122 consultations in the Chamisku and Dawodia camps. We have also provided mental health counseling for 644 people and nutritional screening for 1,693 children. There is a proliferation of respiratory tract, urinary tract, and skin infections in the camps.


The Mediterranean Sea is the most dangerous route for migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe. Approximately 23,000 migrants and refugees have lost their lives on this route since 2000 – and since the beginning of 2015, more than 3,000 people have died in the Mediterranean. A partnership has been created between SOS Méditerranée and MdM to provide medical care and psychological support for those rescued at sea.


In May 2015, our team in Jordan launched a mobile clinic in the rural area of Ramtha focusing on Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians. In just 90 days, the team has carried out 28,496 primary healthcare consultations, including 2,666 sexual and reproductive health consultations and 1,619 mental health consultations.


While our work in Lebanon is ongoing, from April to June of this year, MdM conducted 26,345 consultations for women and children. These included 4,906 sexual and reproductive health consultations. At 1.17 million, refugees in Lebanon comprise over 25% of the total population.


MdM is currently ramping up operations in the Netherlands. Amsterdam’s city council has asked the team to assist at three different emergency shelter locations that house approximately 1,500 migrants.


Serbia is one of the most important transit countries for migrants traveling through Europe. Our team has conducted assessments of the situation in Serbia and has documented accounts of discrimination and violence the migrants and refugees have experienced in the country. On October 19th 2015, 10,000 migrants were stranded in Serbia as borders unexpectedly closed.


Our mobile team in Sweden conducts approximately 50 consultations with migrants and refugees each evening, with a focus on providing basic healthcare and information for new arrivals to the country.


In Switzerland, the number of migrants in the country has increased by 15% since June, taxing the public resources of this small nation. Our team has been helping to fill the gaps by providing basic medical care to the migrants and refugees.


In Syria, MdM is active in Aleppo, Idlib and Der’a. From April to June of this year, our team treated 116,997 patients in 25 MdM supported health facilities. They provided an additional 35,026 consultations in 9 MdM stand-alone facilities.


In a 3-month period, the MdM team in Turkey treated 6,144 patients in the Syrian border town of Reyhanli. MdM also cared for a total of 7,283 Iraqi refugees in clinics in Diyarbakir, Batman and Sirnak.

United Kingdom

In the UK, our London-based clinic provides medical care, information and support to vulnerable migrants and refugees on their arrival to the UK. Many of the newly-arrived are coming from the camp in Calais, France, where we were the first medical organization on the ground.