Urgent EU action needed to prevent catastrophic spread of coronavirus in Moria refugee camp, say Oxfam and GCR

Publicado: 2nd Septiembre 2020

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 has been reported in the refugee camp of Moria in Lesbos, Greece. The Greek government and its EU partners must immediately take urgent action to avoid a health tragedy in the camp.

Evelien van Roemburg, Oxfam’s Europe migration campaign manager, said:

“The arrival of the coronavirus in the EU ‘hotspot’ refugee camp of Moria is a disaster for the people who are stranded there. ‘Social distancing’ and recommended hygiene practices to reduce risk are impossible – there are nearly 12,000 people trapped in a camp build for less than 3000 people. There are not enough toilets, showers, or access to water. Without immediate and drastic intervention, this will turn into a devastating health crisis that could cause the deaths of hundreds of already weakened people.

“We welcome the evacuation of some of the most vulnerable people from the Greek EU ‘hotspot’ refugee camps and the pledge by 12 EU member states to relocate unaccompanied children. However, the current situation is the product of governments who have ignored warnings about the dangerous conditions in the EU’s ‘hotspot’ camps for years, and instead doubled down on their inhumane migration policies.”

Natalia-Rafaella Kafkoutsou, refugee law expert at the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), said:

“Nearly six months into the pandemic, the emergency plan designed by Greece is still far from sufficient to properly protect people seeking asylum, staff in the refugee camps, and the wider population on the Greek islands. It almost exclusively focuses on restricting the movement of people, rather than adequate prevention and response.

“Instead of protecting people, Greek authorities have fined health clinics in the camp and closed down necessary accommodation sites on the mainland.

“To save lives, authorities should not wait for a mass outbreak of the coronavirus to rescue people seeking asylum from the overcrowded island camps. Instead, everyone in of Moria should be tested for the coronavirus, and positive cases should be isolated immediately in proper facilities. The Greek government and its EU partners need to take immediate action and transfer everyone out of the ‘hotspot’ to suitable accommodation on the Greek mainland and in other EU member states.

Notas para editores

  • Spokespeople are available for interviews in English, Greek and Dutch.
  • A Somalian 40-year old man, a recognised refugee, is the first case of COVID-19 in the EU ‘hotspot’ camp of Moria. He was feeling unwell yesterday evening and was transferred by ambulance to the local hospital, where he tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • The Greek government has developed a 3-step emergency plan for its refugee camps. Step 1 – already activated for all Greek island camps – is to isolate the camp and restrict movement. Once the first cases are confirmed, step 2 is to quarantine the camp, ban NGOs from entering and set up ‘health stations’ for up to 30 people; this step has been activated in several other refugee camps so far. The final step, in the event of a massive outbreak, entails separating people who are infected from those who are not. The plan is largely reactive rather than preventive. Also, many details on how exactly it will be implemented are left unclear: where will people brought in case of an evacuation, how will this happen and who will carry out the evacuation?
  • At the end of August, in Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, close to 12,000 people – nearly half of them children (40%) – were crammed into a space built for fewer than 3,000 people. There are up to 160 people using the same dirty toilet and over 500 people per every shower. In some parts of the camp, 325 people share one tap and there is no soap. 15 to 20 people can live in a single shipping container, or in tents or makeshift shelters.
  • Earlier this year, several EU member states including Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and Portugal agreed to relocate a total of 1,600 unaccompanied children from the Aegean refugee camps. Since the beginning of this initiative, 229 children have been relocated to six EU countries, most recently to France and Finland, but months after the pledge by member states, hundreds of children are still waiting in the camps.

Información de contacto

Florian Oel | Brussels | florian.oel@oxfam.org | office +32 2 234 11 15 | mobile +32 473 56 22 60

For updates, please follow @Oxfam and @OxfamEU

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