January 18, 2018
In 2015, more than a million refugees and migrants in search of a better life crossed into Europe. The vast majority arrived by boat onto Greek islands such as Chios and Lesbos after completing the dangerous crossing in flimsy, overcrowded boats. Many made their journey onwards to countries such as Germany and France but as borders across Europe were eventually shut in an effort to contain the crisis, thousands of refugees were left stranded in Greece.
Doctors of the World Greece, founded in 1990, has a long history in providing access to healthcare to refugees and other vulnerable communities across the country such as unaccompanied minors and drug users. We are also part of the H.U.M.A. (Health for Undocumented Migrants and Asylum Seekers) network along with 12 other NGOs across Europe. The network aims to promote access to healthcare services for refugees and migrants throughout the European Union.
There are currently 62,000 refugees and migrants in Greece – over half are women and children. 14,000 of them are stranded across Greek islands such as Chios and Lesbos. Many have been forced to wait in temporary camps with limited knowledge of when they will be granted asylum. Our teams in Greece aim to provide healthcare at refugee reception centers and via mobile health units in hard to reach areas. We provide access to primary healthcare, psychological support, and also focus on sexual and reproductive health. Our teams regularly consist of doctors, nurses, pediatricians, drivers, and interpreters
As well as providing access to healthcare to refugees, we also operate accommodation centers for unaccompanied minors. During the 2015 refugee crisis, it was estimated that 35% of those entering Greece from Turkey were unaccompanied minors. These children are often extremely vulnerable to being trafficked, exploited and victims of violence. Our unaccompanied minor center in Athens provides children with psychological support, legal advice, nutritional information and safe housing.
While the majority of our projects are focused on refugee and migrant communities, we also work on harm reduction with drug users in Athens. Working out of a mobile health clinic, we aim to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other infectious diseases amongst drug users in the country’s capital. We distribute clean needles, offer primary and emergency healthcare and provide HIV and HCV rapid testing. We also provide psychological support for vulnerable users.