The summer of 2015 saw an unprecedented number of people displaced by conflict arrive in the EU through the ‘Balkan Route’. Initially entering the EU through Greece or Bulgaria, Thessaloniki became an important City on the route, with its proximity to both Bulgaria and Turkey. In 2016 the EU-Turkey deal and the closing of the Balkan borders rendered thousands stranded in Greece with no way to move forward, leaving many people trapped in a legal limbo without access to documentation indicating legal status, housing, cash assistance or medical care.
Until December 2022 many people in Thessaloniki were housed under the ESTIA II (Emergency Support to Integration and Accomodation) programme. A programme funded by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), it was designed to provide to vulnerable asylum seekers urban accomodation, access to education, healthcare, improve independence and promote integration into Greek society. At peak capacity this was able to help improved living standards over 20,000 individuals.
At the end of 2022, the government abruptly announced the closure of the programme, citing plenty of space in camps and processing facilities throughout Greece. Because of this closure, approximately 10,000 people were evicted from their homes, forced into isolated camps or left without assistance to find their own accomodation.
As city camps have been closing, with only one camp remaining within Thessaloniki, many of the beneficiaries of ESTIA have been forced into ‘remote and freedom restricting camps’ many of these hours away from the nearest town. The lack of transportation to these areas combined with a lack of permanent doctors has left huge gaps in medical support for residents.
For the one living in the city a large number without documentation, access to medical care becomes a near impossibility. Lack of documentation means for many the lack of access to social support
In this context a number of NGO’s have risen to fill the gap. With organizations providing legal and social support as well as food and clothing, Med’EqualiTeam will be running a clinic for those who are otherwise unable to reach medical care.
The Project :
The Clinic in Thessaloniki
In partnership with WAVE Thessaloniki, an NGO based in Thessaloniki since 2018, Med'EqualiTeam will provide free medical care.
Set up in 2018 to help bridge the gap in services available to those undocumented, WAVE created a Social Center at the heart of Thessaloniki. They aim to provide basic needs for people on the move and for anyone for whom social services are unavailable . WAVE provides food, clothing and an acces to their community center. In 2022, thery served over 20,000 hot meals and gave over 15,000 articles of clothing and shelter material to vulnerable people. WAVE also provide a space for a number of organizations to offer new services to both documented and undocumented people in the city.
In DECEMBER 2023, every afternoon, within the WAVE community center, Med'EqualiTeam will run a clinic providing medical care to all those who come to the center.
The mobile unit
People living in camps, whether documented or undocumented, are often unable to access healthcare due to the isolation of the camps and the irregular presence of medical staff.
In order to reach those individuals and families who are unable to travel, Med'EqualiTeam will go close to the camps with the mobile unit.
The team will work closely with community centers and NGOs located near the camps in northern Greece, to provide medical care and medicines.
Our team will be composed of one field coordinator and one medical coordinator.
The medical team will be composed of volunteers : 1 or 2 doctors and 1 nurse (this number will be adjusted with the evolution of the situation).
Translators for relevant languages, will also be part of the team to ensure clear communication with patients.