Greece is both a transit destination and home to a large population of migrants and refugees. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in response to the want for medical services adapted to the rehabilitation needs of victims of torture initiated a project, late 2014 in Athens, to support migrants who have suffered torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Its medical services are complementary to the mental health, social and legal support provided to victims of torture by BABEL Day Centre and the Greek Council for Refugees in the framework of “Prometheus”- an EU funded rehabilitation project for victims of torture.
Medical support includes: a) clinical examination and assessment of torture residuals; b) treatment plan focusing on the management and - if possible - rehabilitation of torture related disabilities; c) physiotherapy and chronic pain management; d) psychiatric treatment which is offered by BABEL Day Centre and psychological care (including assessment, counseling, psychotherapy, psychological support) offered jointly by Babel and MSF; e) referrals to diagnostics and specialists for further assessment and treatment at the National Health System, private health facilities and other medical non-profit organizations; f) management of other chronic morbidities. Surgical rehabilitation procedures, prostheses, orthotic devices and accessories of daily living are also offered to beneficiaries in cooperation with a network of health professionals. Moreover, the methodology of the work is conducive to addressing the complexity of beneficiary needs stemming from their status as migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in a context where little welfare or integration support is available. Social support offered both by MSF and the Greek Council for Refugees and legal aid offered by the latter are of crucial importance and a lot of effort is put into having medical, mental health, social and legal professionals working in an integrated manner.
Between October 2014 and December2015, 154 beneficiaries from 33 countries received support to reduce suffering and when possible achieve rehabilitation for residuals linked with the violence they had suffered. Most torture residuals affected the musculoskeletal (33.4%), the neurological (14.3%), the genitourinary (7.7%), and the gastrointestinal (7.3%) systems. An additional 6.3% presented ophthalmological problems and 5.6% oral cavity (dental) related residuals. Moreover more than half of the beneficiaries sought mental health support to overcome different types of traumatic exposure (torture; detention; difficult journey to Europe, racist attacks) as well as current stressors such as uncertainty in relation to the outcome of the asylum process, practical difficulties to ensure a livelihood, marginalization. Symptoms presented included patterns of extreme anxiety, defences of somatization, impaired memory, intrusive thoughts, impaired concentration, insomnia and nightmares, denial or repression and dissociation, guilt, helplessness, depressive mood or symptoms of PTSD, emotional disturbances, fear of intimacy, substance abuse.
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The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.