Three people found handcuffed, four injured on the Aegean island of Lesvos
On Thursday 20 October 2022, an emergency team from the international medical organisation Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) received an official alert about a group of people, newly arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos, in need of urgent medical care. When an MSF team arrived on site, they found three people tightly handcuffed and four injured, reportedly from beatings.
“That day, we were called for an emergency intervention”, says Teo di Piazza, MSF project coordinator in Lesvos. “As we were approaching the location, on a mountain, we started hearing people screaming, a lot of screaming. We were worried and started running in their direction. When we arrived, we found 22 people. Everybody was crying, women, children and men. Three people were handcuffed very tightly with plastic bundles. Four others were injured. Based on their reports, the injuries were due to violence from a group of people who had left when we approached.”
Everyone in the group was in shock. “We could see people were in a critical state”, says Teo di Piazza. “We had to call one of our psychologists to provide emergency psychological first aid to the group”. The four injured people were referred to the hospital for an assessment of their condition and medical care.
“According to testimonies, shortly before we arrived, seven or eight people were approaching the group, saying they were doctors and they had food”, Di Piazza continues. “They reportedly started to beat them and handcuff them as soon as they found them. And when they heard us, the group told us those other people immediately ran away.”
MSF teams have heard similar testimonies of violence occurring when people arrive on Lesvos and Samos islands to seek safety after a traumatic journey. MSF finds these reports extremely concerning and urges the appropriate state authorities to take all necessary measures to prevent and stop such incidents from happening, and ensure people have access to safe reception, protection and asylum procedures.
The MSF team informed the police authorities of the incident and supported the referral of injured people to the hospital. They also provided follow-up care to the group the next day.
On Lesvos and Samos, MSF teams coordinate with other humanitarian as well as protection organisations, such as UNHCR, and also local state authorities to receive official alerts and provide emergency medical assistance to people arriving on the two islands. MSF provides them with medical and psychological first aid, distributes food, water and dry clothes and coordinates with local public health services for referrals to hospital if needed. Local police then transfer people to the camp, for registration processes after five days of quarantine. Since August 2021, MSF teams on Lesvos and Samos have provided emergency medical assistance to 2,225 people.