As Coronavirus spreads, concerns grow over refugees in Greek camps

Date: 
March, 2020
Country: 
Greece

Crowded tents, makeshift shacks, cramped containers, unsanitary bathroom facilities and a lack of hot water for cleaning and laundry. 

In Greece’s camps, refugees and migrants are surviving conditions like these at a time when the novel coronavirus COVID-19 spreads throughout the country and the world. 

Starting in late 2016, Arash Hampay, who now works as part of a humanitarian collective in Athens, spent eight months in the notorious Moria refugee camp before he eventually received asylum in Greece.

Although a few thousand refugees and migrants lived in the camp at the time, today it is home to more than 20,000 people, although the facility was designed to accommodate less than 3,000.

Hampay fears that an outbreak of COVID-19 in Moria—or in any of the overcrowded refugee camps in Greece—would spread like a wildfire.

“It would be like a bomb in Moria because the health system is completely messed up there,” Hampay told TRT World. “It would take just one or two people get the virus [at first], because 20,000 people live there without a decent health system.”

In order to minimise the risk of spreading the coronavirus, medical experts urge people to wash their hands regularly, keep their homes clean, avoid large crowds and stay inside.

For refugees and migrants in the camps, however, those guidelines are privileges they do not have.

More than 60,000 refugees and migrants reached Greece last year, the largest number since the March 2016 European Union migration accord with Turkey.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that more than 112,000 asylum seekers currently live in the country.

Of that total, upwards of 35,000 live in five Aegean island camps designed to accommodate a combined capacity of 5,400 residents.

Source: TRT World