Greece: MSF help create a refugee transit camp in Idomeni

28 Sep 2015
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A team of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) logisticians have helped to build a transit camp with the capacity to accommodate more than 1,000 people in the Idomeni area in Greece, close to the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

MSF has set up four large 240 square metre tents, and two tents of 45 square metres to be used for our medical activities. The camp is also equipped with basic sanitation facilities and a water supply.  

The structures will serve as a facility for the thousands of migrants and refugees passing by the area every day.

Facing harsh conditions

As Idomeni is a small, remote village with limited capacity to host the people who arrive there, many refugees have to stay in squalid conditions. Many resort to staying outside, or at the train station, without shelter and with little access to food or hygiene facilities. With winter approaching, people will face even harsher conditions.

Lately, the MSF teams have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of refugees crossing the border, sometimes seeing up to 5,000 people crossing every day.

Improving hygiene facilities

“After many months of coordinated efforts and negotiations with authorities, we are pleased that we have managed to create this transit camp for refugees and migrants,” says Antonis Rigas, MSF project coordinator in Idomeni.

“With other European countries closing borders, we fear a domino effect leading to FYROM closing its borders as well. The new camp is a positive step towards the improvement of accommodation and hygiene facilities in case people get stuck here.”

Chaotic situation

On 21 August, FYROM decided to temporarily close its border with Greece, leading to a chaotic situation in Idomeni, with more than 3,000 people being violently prevented by FYROM guards from crossing the border and being stuck for days without access to shelter, hygiene facilities or food.   

“The shocking scenes we saw in August were a result of extreme measures to prevent desperate people fleeing violence and war from crossing borders.” says Aurelie Ponthieu, MSF's humanitarian advisor on displacement.

“But closing borders and using violence is not a solution, it is just provoking a humanitarian crisis on the other side."

Medical consultations

Since April 2015, MSF has been offering medical consultations, psychological support and relief items in the Idomeni area on the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

From 3 April to 31 August, MSF provided primary healthcare to 4,060 people and referred 53 to local hospitals, 3,906 people participated in individual and group mental health consultations. The teams also distributed 7,918 relief items such as hygiene products, energy food, blankets and socks. 

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