There are more than 65 million people around the world currently displaced from their homes, the highest number since the Second World War. Many are fleeing persecution, poverty and war in their home countries, but are forced by official barriers into underground human-trafficking networks.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) delivers humanitarian medical care to many of these people first-hand: to those who have been uprooted by war, are stuck in transit camps or have risked abuse at the hands of people smugglers. Our teams have witnessed the suffering and conflict that have led people to embark on these terrifying journeys — and the humanitarian consequences of the international community's failure to protect their rights and freedoms.

'A point of hope in their traumatic journey': A Canadian nurse aboard an MSF search-and-rescue ship

Two months ago, Dominika Wanczyk found herself providing comfort to a young girl from Ivory Coast who had recently been rescued from a sinking vessel in the Mediterranean Sea. 

“She had burns on her legs,” recalls Wanczyk. “She told me that while she was in a detention centre for illegal migrants in Libya, guards had attempted to sexually assault her. When she resisted their attempts, they poured scalding hot water on her legs.”

Reflecting on her time onboard the Aquarius, Wanczyk felt privileged to provide hands-on care and bear witness to people's stories. "It was an honour to be a point of hope in their traumatic journey," says Wanczyk. "I was so proud of our crew and team for making an effort to make everyone feel safe and to look after them, even in small gestures of kindness."

Dominika Wanczyk talks with rescued migrants after an operation that pulled 99 people out of a sinking boat.

Follow @MSF_Sea's response to urgent humanitarian needs on the Mediterranean Sea

The @MSF_Sea Twitter account brings you the latest updates from our maritime operations seeking to provide rescue and care people at risk of dying on dangerous migration journeys. 


International Women's Day 2018: Forcibly displaced

More women and girls than ever before are currently forcibly displaced — at last count an estimated 32 million worldwide. Some are still on the move. Needing access to contraception, or a safe place to deliver their baby, support in the wake of sexual violence or to care for their own children, they are no different to any other woman or girl around the world. But displaced, they have significantly greater health challenges, simply because they are women and girls.

In response, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has scaled up its action to meet them on their way in places as diverse as Tanzania, Bangladesh and Greece—and many others. Across the spectrum of their journeys, displaced women and girls urgently need care in five key areas: obstetric care, family planning, safe abortion care, sexual violence care and mental healthcare. Only then can they have the chance to navigate their health as they search for safety — and reduce the ongoing risk of sickness, suffering and death.


Libya: MSF calls for end to horrific conditions faced by refugees and asylum seekers in abysmal migration detention centres

For more than two years, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been providing medical care to refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants held inside Tripoli detention centres in Libya, in conditions that are horrific and inhumane.

Detainees are stripped of any human dignity, suffer ill-treatment and lack access to medical care. Detention is causing harm and unnecessary suffering. It is directly linked to the majority of the physical and mental health problems for which detainees require medical attention. People are held arbitrarily with no way to challenge the legality of their detention, virtually no access to consular services or to the outside world.

With no rule of law in Libya, the detention system is harmful and exploitative. There is a disturbing lack of oversight and regulation. With no formal registration or proper record-keeping in place, once people are inside a detention centre there is no way to track what happens to them. Some people are held for prolonged periods of time; others are transferred between different detention centres, moved to undisclosed locations or disappear overnight.MSF witnesses on a daily basis how much unnecessary harm is being caused by detaining people in these conditions. There is only so much medical teams can do to ease the suffering. MSF calls for an end to the arbitrary detention of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in Libya.


MSF Canada's Stephen Cornish on how people fleeing violence in Central America become victims of abuse in Mexico

Today marks the release of a new report by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) that shines a light on a humanitarian crisis taking place just south of Canada and the United States, along the migration corridor from Central America northward through Mexico. Forced to Flee Central America's Northern Triangle describes how, instead of asylum, people fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras often encounter abuse, extortion and brutality at the hands of criminal networks. 


Mexico: No way to safety for people fleeing extreme violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle

Central Americans forced to flee devastating violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are being re-victimized along the migration route to the United States and Mexico, according to a report released today by the medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).


The global migration crisis will be a test of Canada's humanity: MSF Canada's Stephen Cornish

"We must not turn our back on our collective responsibility to welcome refugees with dignity, to extend and review individual asylum claims on their merits and, where the latter is lacking, to ensure returnees are only sent back home or to third countries where it is safe to do so. As Canadians, we must open our eyes to the fact that our government already manages our border’s through a complex system of interdiction."


MSF denounces widespread violence against migrants and refugees at the Serbian-Hungarian border

From January 2016 to February 2017, MSF treated 106 cases of injuries allegedly perpetrated by Hungarian border patrols. All cases treated by MSF teams follow similar patterns of violence, including injuries caused by beating (54 cases), dog bites (24 cases), irritations caused by tear gas and pepper spray (15 cases) and other injuries (35 cases).  Such abuse did not exclude vulnerable people such as unaccompanied minors: out of 106 cases, 22 were below 18 years old.  

Dying to reach Europe: Insights into Eritreans' desperate journeys to safety

The dangerous journeys that tens of thousands of Eritreans are making across desert and sea to reach Europe are a striking example of how restrictive migration policies are having a devastating impact on people seeking safety outside their countries of origin, says Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in a new report. Dying to Reach Europe: Eritreans in Search of Safety is based on the first-hand testimonies of refugees who have fled the small but highly militarized east African country, reporting a lack of freedom and forced military conscription for years or even decades. Defectors are at risk of being rounded up, imprisoned, tortured or killed.

“Ninety per cent of Eritreans who manage to reach Europe via land and sea are granted asylum. European governments recognize their claims as genuine, but despite this are doing all they can to prevent them and others seeking asylum from reaching EU shores,” said Arjan Hehenkamp, MSF General Director.

'Some people don't survive': A Canadian MSF nurse on delivering care to people fleeing violence in Iraq

Many people who are forcibly displaced by war and other catastrophes often flee to refuge within the borders of their own country.  

Mariko Miller, an MSF emergency nurse, witnessed the suffering of survivors who managed to escape from the war-torn district of Hawija to the relative safety of Kirkuk in northern Iraq.

Children at risk: Nurse finds heartbreak and hope among the youngest passengers on an MSF search-and-rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea

Since 2015, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been running search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, in response to a humanitarian crisis that saw more than 4,000 people perish last year alone while trying to reach safety in Europe and flee conflict, disaster and turmoil in their home countries.

Canadian nurse Courtney Bercan was recently part of the medical team on-board the MSF ship Dignity I, providing medical care to people rescued from boats in distress. In the first-person piece below, she shares her thoughts on the passengers she met who provided the most reasons for both heartbreak and hope: the children.

A Canadian physician describes her experiences aboard an MSF Mediterranean search-and-rescue ship, and thanks supporters for making her lifesaving work possible

Dr. Sarah Giles is a Canadian doctor who spent four months as an MSF medical activity manager on-board the MV Aquarius, a migrant rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea, from August to November 2016. In the video above, she recounts some of her experiences treating people in desperate situations, pulled from boats in distress as they tried to reach Europe from North Africa, and she thanks the MSF supporters who helped make this work possible.

While on the Aquarius, Sarah also maintained a blog, on which she shared many more stories from the front lines of the Mediterranean migration crisis, describing some of the terrible conditions she has seen faced by rescued patients, the challenges of helping hundreds of people on a single boat at sea, and the ongoing tragedy of continued mass drownings. 

Read Sarah's frank accounts of life aboard a rescue boat amid an ongoing crisis, and her insights into the continued need for a comprehensive humanitarian response.


Migrant lives at risk: 10 things you need to know about the Mediterranean crisis


In 2016, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had teams on board three boats, the Dignity I, Bourbon Argos and the MV Aquarius.From the beginning of operations in April until November 29, these three teams directly rescued 19,708 people from overcrowded boats and assisted a further 7,117 people with safe transfer to Italy and medical care. At least one in seven of those rescued on the Mediterranean were helped by the MSF teams.

Here are some of the most important facts about this humanitarian crisis:


The Less-Told Migration Story and its Humanitarian Consequences: A Special Report from MSF Canada

A new report from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Canada by Sonal Marwah, a Researcher on forced migration and refugee issues, former MSF Canada Executive Director Stephen Cornish and MSF Canada Humanitarian Affairs Advisor Carol Devine looks at the human impact of our current global approach to migrants and refugees.

Mediterranean Sea: MSF ship Dignity I assists with rescues of 3,000 people in a single day

On Monday, August 29, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)’s search and rescue boat Dignity I contributed to the rescue of around 3,000 people drifting in about 20 rubber dinghies and several wooden boats, one of which carried between 600-700 people, in the central Mediterranean.

Displaced: The Summer 2016 issue of Dispatches looks at the global displacement crisis

The latest issue of the MSF Canada magazine considers the humanitarian challenges that result from more than 65 million people around the world being displaced by conflict, persecution and hardship.

Read the new online version of Dispatches, and hear more from our staff and patients on the front lines of the global displacement crisis.

Trapped in transit: MSF hears disturbing testimony from refugees, migrants and asylum seekers escaping Libya

Hundreds of interviews with people rescued at sea by MSF during 2015 and 2016 have exposed the alarming level of violence and exploitation to which refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are subjected in Libya. Many of those we have rescued report having directly experienced violence in the country, while almost all report witnessing extreme violence against refugees and migrants, including beatings, sexual violence and murder.

World Refugee Day: The humanitarian consequences of restrictive migration policies

June 20 marks World Refugee Day. The following article describes the humanitarian needs that MSF teams see among displaced populations, and argues that a more comprehensive global response to a growing displacement crisis is needed in order to prevent increased human suffering.This article was first published in Policy Options magazine, and has been adapted from a longer paper originally presented at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Canada.

MSF to no longer take funding from European Union member states and institutions in protest over damaging migration deterrence policies 

On June 17, 2016, MSF announced that it will no longer take funds from the European Union and member states, in opposition to their damaging deterrence policies and intensifying attempts to push people and their suffering away from European shores. This decision took effect immediately and applies to MSF’s projects worldwide.

From MSF Canada's executive director: We must uphold promises to global refugee community

“I was beaten with bare hands, with sticks, with guns. If you move, they beat you. If you talk, they beat you. We spent two months like that, being beaten every day.” That is how Agnes, an Eritrean woman rescued by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)’s search-and-rescue operations from a sinking migrant boat in the Mediterranean Sea, described her ordeal at the hands of people-smugglers.

'The conditions are unacceptable': MSF physician, Dr. Tim Jagatic, on the refugee camp in Idomeni, Greece

5,000 people, 5,000 stories: First-hand accounts from people rescued by MSF on the Mediterranean Sea

Childbirth on the Mediterranean: Meet Divan, delivered on-board an MSF boat after his mother was rescued at sea, October 18, 2015

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) midwife Astrid Börjesson describes how she helped deliver a new baby boy last Sunday to a woman who was among the 240 people rescued by the Dignity I, an MSF search-and-rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea. The 25-year-old woman gave birth to her son, named Divan, after enduring a terrible journey from Cameroon to Libya and on to the Mediterranean Sea in search of hope and safety.



Background on the crisis in the Mediterranean and MSF's response

#MSFSea: A day in the life of MSF physician Dr. Simon Bryant aboard the MY Phoenix rescue vessel

On June 19, users of the social media hashtag #MSFSea got an up-close look at MSF's participation in search-and-rescue operations for migrant vessels on the Mediterranean Sea. Canadian physician Dr. Simon Bryant and his colleagues shared details of their work, their lives on board and the people who have received treatment while trying to reach Europe from North Africa. Visit our campaign page to read the discussion and follow the day's events.

MSF search and rescue operations aboard the Bourbon Argos

'We remain prudent': MSF responds to Europe's new Agenda on Migration in the Mediterranean

On May 13, the European Commission presented the European Agenda on Migration, outlining measures that will be taken in order to respond to the crisis situation in the Mediterranean, as well as the steps to be taken in the coming years. While there is a significantly increased budget for search and rescue operations, it remains to be seen how these promises will translate into practice. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today released a statement in reaction.

MSF reinforces its search-and-rescue operations for migrants with a second vessel in the Mediterranean

MSF is launching an additional ship to carry out search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea to assist people who are risking their lives trying to reach Europe by boat. The ship is carrying a crew of 26 people, including an experienced search-and-rescue crew as well as medical staff to provide emergency medical care. The Bourbon Argos, which left port of Augusta, Sicily, on May 9, will provide additional search and rescue support in the Mediterranean. The ship will work in parallel with the MY Phoenix,  a boat jointly operated by MSF and MOAS (Migrant offshore Aid Station), which launched on May 2. 

'It’s about sharing one’s humanity. Giving a damn': Canadian physician Dr. Simon Bryant 

In his latest blog entry from onboard the MY Phoenix, the search-and-rescue vessel that MSF is operating with MOAS in the Mediterranean, Alberta's Dr. Simon Bryant reflects on the hard stories he encounters from the migrants his team has helped rescue. "You can check the internet for our current location," he writes, "but it won’t tell you anything about the lives of the 219 souls recently on board, or why I’m here."