Until March 2016, thousands of people fleeing war and persecution were arriving on Greek islands every day before continuing their journeys across Europe.

However, the closure of the Balkan route and the EU deal with Turkey in March left migrants and refugees stranded, without access to basic services, adequate shelter or information on their legal status.  MSF shifted its focus from providing lifesaving surgery and medical care to people on the move to addressing the specific needs of those stuck in unsanitary camps.


After the signing of the EU–Turkey deal, the number of migrants arriving on Greek islands decreased sharply.  Between January and September, MSF carried out 12,909 basic healthcare consultations across the island, through its mobile clinics and inside Moria and Kara Tepe registration centres. In Matamados, in the north of the island, MSF ran a transit centre for new arrivals and organised buses to transport them to registration centres. After March, the Moria hotspot became a pre-removal detention centre, offering little guarantee of respect for human rights. MSF decided to halt all its activities in Moria, including transport, and hand over its medical services to other organisations. MSF continued to provide medical and mental healthcare in Kara Tepe camp and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable people.

In September, MSF opened a clinic in Mytilene town centre offering sexual and reproductive healthcare, treatment for chronic diseases and mental health support. A team also started outreach activities in Moria to identify specific vulnerabilities and mental health needs.


On Samos island, MSF provided basic healthcare for new arrivals at the port, as well as in the prison, at the request of the local police. MSF also deployed a medical land rescue team (MLRT) to give first aid, distribute relief items such as blankets, clothes and tents, and provide transport to people who needed to reach the camps and medical facilities further inland. The MLRT assisted 5,721 people before the activity was stopped in May. Another MLRT operated on Agathonisi island, south of Samos.

Before an official hotspot was constructed, MSF provided 18,700 meals in the Samos migrant camp, and distributed 1,470 tents and 2,800 blankets.

Inside the Samos hotspot, conditions rapidly deteriorated between March and December. It was initially built as a detention centre to hold 280 people. In 2016, the Greek authorities expanded the capacity to 600 places but by the end of the year, the population had grown to over 2,000, and new arrivals had to sleep in tents scattered across cleared patches of forest. MSF provided mental health services through 170 individual consultations and 249 follow-up consultations between March and December

MSF also operates a shelter for vulnerable people on Samos through a local hotel. Between May and December, the team provided accommodation and primary healthcare to 180 people from 39 families and made referrals to local secondary healthcare facilities.

Search and rescue (SAR) on the Aegean Sea

MSF launched SAR activities off the island of Lesbos in collaboration with Greenpeace, assisting more than 18,117 people in 361 interventions between December 2015 and March 2016. Due to the sharp decrease in arrivals, MSF halted these activities in August.

Read more about MSF's activities in Greece in 2016.

Year MSF first worked in the country: 1991.

2016 Key figures
Outpatient consultations 54,200
Individual mental health consultations 8,100
Group mental health consultations 650
No. staff in 2016 60
 Expenditure 2016 €25,1 million


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