PRESS RELEASE - 2/9/2020

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

2 September 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 3,000 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 inside 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.

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