Give a chance to the brothers of Ailan: reception of refugees in Greece


Dimitris Avramopoulos, Member of the EC in charge of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, travelled to Lesbos to visit the refugee camp of Karatepe municipality. Visit of a refugee camp in the Karatepe municipality: Dimitris Avramopoulos, in the middle, meeting with refugees. Date: 18/01/2017 Reference: P-033444/00-16 Location: Lesbos. © European Union , 2017 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Nikolia Apostolou.

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Michaella Alexandrou. The writer is a first year medical student at the University of Athens, Greece. She is also affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Our age has been declared a period of confusion, because, even though after the formation of the EU people expected a high standard of living, real democracy and respect towards human rights, the harsh reality is a climaxing humanitarian crisis, with the refugee crisis being its latest sign. Thousands of people have found a wrongful end in the Mediterranean, and even the cold winter has been unable to stop the migrating populations.

Whoever manages to survive this risky journey, overcoming the dangers of the sea and the smugglers, aka “dealers of hope”, are now gathered in camps which resemble “concentration camps” more than temporary accommodation. From there on a new Odyssey for these people begins: a battle with their health.

The healthcare services and psychosocial support in the camps are provided from the Ministry of Health in collaboration with humanitarian NGOs (Doctors without Borders, Doctors of the World, International Red Cross etc) and international institutions, like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Although there have been serious efforts to cover basic health needs, accommodation facilities are less than sufficient to house the ever-growing population of refugees coming to Greece, which poses a great threat to their health status.

ΚΕΕLPΝΟ (Center of Screening & Prevention of Diseases of Greece) has made numerous warnings for the possibility of an outbreak of contagious diseases among refugee populations, like intestinal infections, tuberculosis, hepatitis and malaria, because the uncontrollable mass cohabitation in inappropriate living conditions creates aν ideal environment for the outspread of such diseases.

As the Doctors of the World state in their report, the health of the refugees can be considered in good condition at the beginning of their journey, but health issues appear during their efforts to reach their destination country, mostly due to the sanitary and living conditions. The most common diseases that were recorded in the report were infections of the respiratory system (25%), orthopedic incidents (13%) and dermatological problems (13%). Apart from these, however, we cannot overlook the psychological disorders, which, even though are rarely statistically analyzed, are considered the most common health issue these people face, as witnesses of war and death. [1]

The big question is what can be done now for them, for their better health and a hopeful future. In order for such a solution to be considered feasible, the problem has to be addressed neither as a Syrian, nor as a Greek one, it has to be faced as an international one, with implications for every one of us. Although international (Geneva Convention) and European law (Dublin Regulation) have created legal obligations that bind all the European nations to respect and take care of asylum-seekers and refugees, in reality, during situations of crisis the reception countries have to face way more difficulties in contrast to the destination countries, which results in inhumane camps, like the ones currently operating in Greece.

Therefore, a righteous allocation of the populations, according to each country’s GDP, and at the same time acceleration of the relocation mechanism, is required. In addition, an upgrade of the reception system and the current situation in the temporary accommodation facilities are important in order for the refugees to be offered the necessary healthcare services and living conditions, so that they have a chance to live a life in dignity.  

What is pre-required is that we overcome our illogical egocentrism that nowadays suppress the humanistic values. Especially us, as medical students all over Europe can advocate our governments and claim respect towards everyone’s’ human rights, and especially for vulnerable groups.

We have to remember that medicine is no simple profession, but requires great responsibility. As the brave of the islands that save refugees prove every day, what remains in this harsh reality is our humanity.  

[1] Médecins du Monde in Greece: A strong partnership with EU to assist refugees,

About the author

Michaella Alexandrou is a first year medical student at the University of Athens, Greece. She is an active member of HelMSIC (Hellenic Medical Students International Committee) and a Local Officer on Human Rights and Peace. She strongly believe that we all have to stand up together for human rights and «be the change we want to see in the wosrld». By taking action against human rights violations, a safer and more humane world is possible!

The translation was made by Nikolas Karvelas (HelMSIC NORP).






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