MSF calls for the opening of a safe and legal passage at the land border
between Turkey and Greece
Brussels/Athens, 3 December 2015 – A joint operation to rescue
people risking their lives on the dangerous sea crossing between Turkey
and Greece has been launched by international medical organisation
Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders (MSF) and environmental
MSF and Greenpeace teams are using three rigid hulled inflatable boats
(RHIBs) based on the northern coast of Lesbos in support and coordinated
by the Greek Coastguard. MSF medical teams are also on standby at landing
sites to provide emergency care for people in a critical condition and to
ensure timely referrals to the hospital by three MSF ambulances, boosting
the efforts of volunteer groups already providing assistance to people
crossing to the Greek islands.
Since 28 November, MSF and Greenpeace teams have assisted hundreds of
people, dozens of them from boats in obvious distress. On land, MSF
medical teams have assisted 20 arrivals people for critical health issues,
nine of whom were taken to hospital for specialist care.
In the coming days, MSF plans to provide three more RHIBs to further
expand rescue capacity on other islands. Teams will help people on boats
in distress and provide medical assistance once they land.
Horrified by the unabated refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, we were
compelled to act in whatever way we could; says Alexandra Messare,
Greenpeace Greece programme director. Fleeing conflict, poverty and human
rights abuses in their countries of origin in the hope of a better life is
not a crime. We believe that those with the capacity to help should do
whatever they can. We have brought our maritime experience to this
collaboration with MSF in the hope of saving lives.
Despite deteriorating weather conditions as winter approaches, up to
140,000 people crossed from Turkey to the Greek islands in November alone,
with 65 percent landing on Lesbos, according to UNHCR figures. Since
September, 330 people, most of them children, have lost their lives in the
Aegean whilst attempting to reach safe haven in Europe.
MSF medical teams on Lesbos have conducted 10,169 medical consultations
since July, 6,154 of them in the past two months. Since October, teams
have seen rising numbers of people suffering from respiratory tract
infections and hypothermia, linked to the increasingly rough seas and cold
MSF sees its efforts in the Aegean as a temporary solution, and stresses
that safe options must be found for people making the journey to Europe.
Our activities in the Aegean are only a temporary solution to mitigate the
suffering and loss of life we have seen in recent months,” says
Marietta Provopolou , General Director of MSF Greece. As the weather
conditions worsen and the sea becomes even more dangerous, we know there
will be new tragedies at sea.
Europe must stop shunning its responsibilities and provide safe and legal
passage to people in search of safety, says Stefano Argenziano, MSF
operations coordinator: ‘It is unacceptable that the main way to access
international protection in Europe involves risking one life at sea
especially when allowing access to the EU via Turkey land border could
prevent deaths,’ says Argenziano.The EU and its member states must ensure
a dignified and safe reception for migrants and refugees on the land
border between Turkey and Greece.