Médicines sans Fronitières: dispatches from the frontline of the European migrant crisis
PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION
Respiratory tract infections, skin diseases and trauma – all linked to living conditions – affect two thirds of migrants and refugees seeking care in Médicines sans Fronitières (MSF) clinics in Greece. This is the report made by MSF’s Chef du Mission of Greece, Dr Apostolos Veizis, in an interview published in the journal Pathogens and Global Health.
In the interview, Dr Veizis explores how MSF teams (who have been based in Greece to provide medical and humanitarian assistance to migrants and refugees since 1996) have conducted over 44,000 consultations between March and December 2015, and have primarily been dealing with illnesses linked to the migrants’ living conditions while they journeyed to and through Europe.
Such illnesses have been caused by sleeping in open ground in decreasing temperatures and limited access to hygiene facilities or potable water, while 18% of the migrants (who are predominantly from Afghanistan and Syria) were considered vulnerable; the disabled, those aged under 5, elderly, pregnant women, single mothers or unaccompanied children of minor age. Furthermore, close to a quarter of all those treated by MSF also suffered from anxiety or depression symptoms, related to their experiences prior to migration.
“Patients described how they had gotten sick sleeping outside, with no protection from the rain and cold.” explains Dr Veizis. “The lack of basic services such as shelter, food, and sanitation, impacts not only on people’s physical health, but also on their mental health.”
Dr Veizis also reports that despite concerns raised over migration and the import of infectious diseases, MSF had not seen such an association in their work in Greece. He believes that these problems are being exacerbated by Greece’s failure to comply with EU standards of reception of these migrants and refugees, with an emphasis being placed on police and registration procedures rather than the urgent and essential needs of the migrants for shelter, food and sanitation. Dr Veizis concludes that migrant and refugee problem should not be viewed as a local problem and that, whilst making any predictions is inherently risky, he believes that its successful resolution depends on international co-operation in the Near East, Africa, and Europe.
Professor Andrea Crisanti, Italian Professor of Molecular Parasitology at Imperial College, London and editor of Pathogens and Global Health, said of the interview,
“We were interested in the topic on humanitarian grounds but also in relation to a world health problem. We know that vulnerable people are more susceptible to disease, and we should be concerned about travelling communities like the refugees in southern Europe who have no or little shelter and no income. Large numbers of refugees living in makeshift conditions in Greece is unprecedented in the EU’s history, as is the presence and need for NGOs in the region. In turning to MSF for this interview we hoped to identify the health and social challenges and to convey the vital intervention of MSF in providing for the health needs of these vulnerable people; protection that the Greek government and the EU struggle or are unwilling to provide. We also wanted to engage with the idea that by protecting refugees in Europe we protect EU citizens in turn.”
Read the full interview at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/20477724.2016.1197441
*Any views expressed in this Press Release are not those of the Taylor & Francis Group.
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