Greek migrant camps are an “ideal breeding ground” for coronavirus, experts warn

Humanitarian organisations have raised serious concerns for migrants living in overcrowded camps on the Greek islands in the light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Given the lack of facilities, the camps have been described as “an ideal breeding ground” for the coronavirus. 

“Our biggest fear is that the people are simply not in the position to take the precautions they need to take,”  Florian Westphal, chairman of the German branch of Doctors Without Borders told DW. 

One of the key recommendations for protection against the virus is thorough and frequent hand-washing, but according to Westphal, there is no soap at Moria camp. He added: “In some areas of the camp, there is one water station for up to 1,300 people.”

The lack of medical care in the camps is also extremely concerning. Westphal described the current number of medics in the camps as “totally insufficient,” adding “We have no idea for the time being how that could be resolved.”

Overcrowding also makes a rapid spread more likely. The five Greek migrant camps on the Aegean islands currently host over 41,000 migrants, according to the latest Greek government figures.

To avoid an outbreak of the virus in the camps, Greek authorities have introduced a number of restrictions on entries and exits. Current residents will only be allowed to leave the camps to get essential provisions in nearby towns between 7am and 7pm for the next 30 days.

“Visits (to camps) by individuals and organisations are suspended for at least 14 days,” migration minister Notis Mitarachi announced. Only authorised staff will be allowed in. New arrivals will have their temperature taken.

TMP – 19/03/2020

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Nicolas Economou

Photo caption: Aerial view of Moria Refugee camp and makeshift settlement around it, with approximately 24.000 people, asylum seekers living there in terrible conditions. 19 02 2020 – Moria, Lesvos Island, Greece