Visiting a health clinic in a foreign country is always daunting – particularly if you don’t speak the language or understand the system. Mohammad and his family, Syrian refugees who live in a migrant camp just outside Athens, found exactly that when they needed support for complex health problems.

Mohammad has breathing problems caused by stress and smoking, and his wife Fatin has an acute mental health issue now being treated regularly in Greek hospitals. Their stress was made worse when they were told recently that their application to be reunited with their 11-year-old daughter in Germany had been rejected.

“When they told me that we would have to wait for a positive answer until May 2018, I felt an immense pain and sense of desperation,” said Fatin.

To step in and reduce the stress of accessing health care for Mohammed and Fatin, and hundreds of families like theirs, the Spanish Red Cross – in partnership with the European Union’s Directorate General for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) – now provides qualified interpreters to accompany people to medical appointments in Athens.

Eight qualified interpreters with knowledge of the Greek public health system, health terminology, and cultural mediation skills are on hand to assist migrants and refugees in need.

Socrates Ntarouis is a trained Arabic and Greek interpreter. He supports Mohammad by going with him to his medical appointments – helping to reduce some of the stress of navigating the system, and allowing Mohammad to focus more on his health needs.

“Language is a barrier, but knowing the process of accessing public health in Greece or in any other country might be even more important,” says Socrates.

“When Red Cross decided to launch this service, I immediately offered my assistance. Even as a Greek speaker, I’ve found hospitals are sometimes difficult. When people from the camp went to the hospital on their own they didn’t get the help needed.”