First confirmed case of COVID-19 reported in Moria refugee camp Lesbos, Greece

First confirmed case of COVID-19 reported in Moria refugee camp Lesbos, Greece

Oxfam Ireland call on Irish government to honour commitment on unaccompanied minors as COVID-19 hits Moria refugee camp

  • Urgent EU action needed to prevent catastrophic spread of COVID-19 in Moria refugee camp, say Oxfam and GCR

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “The arrival of COVID-19 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.

“Ireland is one of 12 EU member states who pledged to relocate unaccompanied children trapped on the Greek islands and we welcome this commitment. The Irish government pledged to relocate 36 children and to date have relocated eight. With the news of COVID-19 reaching Moria, we urge the Irish government to continue to honour their commitment as a matter of urgency and bring the remaining children to safety as soon as possible. ”

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."

ENDS

Contact 

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 83 198 1869 

Notes to editors:

  • 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.
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