“Nobody is lifting a finger to help”

It seems the stance of the EU is to see these migrants and refugees as enemies. They want to build walls, deploy the military, limit or even deny assistance, anything to keep these people out.

I have worked in many refugee camps before, in Yemen, Malawi, and Angola. But here on the island of Kos, Greece, is the first time in my life that I have seen people so totally abandoned. The authorities identified the disused Captain Elias hotel as it was some distance from the town centre – and just threw them in there with no information, no help, no provisions, nothing…

What we are seeing every day is completely unacceptable. There seems to be a policy of ‘Let them suffer – if they don’t suffer, more will keep on coming.’

There is no central authority taking responsibility for the management of this ad-hoc refugee camp to ensure the safety of the refugees and their well-being. Nobody is lifting a finger to help.

Managing this influx of people is fully the responsibility of the state. But in the absence of any meaningful assistance, in MSF we decided we had to do something for the health and basic dignity of these people.

We have been cleaning up the hotel. We emptied the swimming pool, which was full of stagnant water and a danger for small children, and installed toilets and showers. We do health consultations and we have a psychologist in the team now. So it has improved a little, but it is still at five or six times over-capacity, and the people are pretty much abandoned there.

Mostly these people have nothing, apart from the little assistance that MSF is giving. The local communities cannot keep giving and giving – they have already been donating clothes to newly-arrived refugees, but there is a constant stream of people passing through.

Across the islands there are thousands of people in totally sub-standard conditions, with very little information about their next steps and no perspective for their future.

When you ask most of the people here, they don’t know what is going to happen to them – no idea. They have very confusing information. Some people I have spoken to say they want to join up with their families in Sweden, but they have no clue of how they will get there.

What should be happening here is a state-provided package of reception services, including accommodation in decent conditions with reasonable hygiene and functioning toilets (which MSF has arranged in the Captain Elias camp), basic health services (which MSF is providing in the Captain Elias camp), and clear information about where they are, what options are available, and what the next administrative steps should be.

These are obligations, and it is utterly shameful that they are being so totally neglected for people who have suffered so much.”

By Stathis Kyroussis, MSF Head of Mission


More than 14,000 refugees have arrived in the Dodecanese islands. Since March 2015, MSF has been working on the island of Kos to provide care to newly arrived migrants and refugees.  So far, the MSF team has conducted more than 1,500 medical consultations.

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