Press Releases

18 Irish NGOs sign open letter requesting urgent relocation of young refugees displaced by Moria fire

  • Pact on Asylum and Migration likely replicate abhorrent situation in Greek EU 'hotspots'

  • Avoid further, unnecessary suffering of unaccompanied children say Irish NGOs


23 September 2020

Today, as the EU publish a new Pact on Asylum and Migration, 18 NGOs from across Ireland wrote to Taoiseach Martin and Ministers Coveney, McEntee, O’Gorman and Byrne, requesting the urgent relocation of unaccompanied children and young people from Greece to Ireland following the tragic fire in Moria refugee camp - which left thousands destitute. 

While the signatories welcome the decision taken by the Irish Government in March of this year to join a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ - who committed to take a portion of the unaccompanied young people being held in Greece - they urge the Irish government to accelerate the relocation of the minors to avoid further, and unnecessary, suffering. 

To date, Ireland has taken eight of the 36 children they pledged to relocate as a Coalition member, with the Taoiseach confirming last week that the government was working to relocate an additional four unaccompanied minors following the fires in Moria. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “Ireland recently campaigned on a platform of promoting human rights and being a voice for the world’s most vulnerable to secure its place on the United Nations Security Council. At a time when EU member states are being asked to show solidarity with fellow member states and young refugees, Ireland has an opportunity to lead by example in the aftermath of this preventable tragedy.

“The young refugees currently being held in Greece have already experienced the trauma of separation from, or loss of their family as well as displacement. The Irish government should act as a matter of urgency to ensure their safety now, and into the future.”

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said: "We strongly believe Ireland can do more to support young people in this desperate situation. We are calling on the Taoiseach to release extra funds as soon as possible to support Tusla and other supporting agencies so that more than four children can be assisted."

The European Commission will today outline a new Pact on Asylum and Migration. The new proposals  will likely replicate the abhorrent situation the EU has been witnessing for years in the Greek EU ‘hotspots’, where entire families have been put in actual or de-facto detention, and people seeking asylum have limited to no access to healthcare and other basic services. Women and unaccompanied minors are disproportionately affected: only a minority can access protected areas of EU-sponsored camps - leaving them to fend for themselves in flimsy tents for indefinite periods of time.

The 18 signatories are asking that more is done to ensure Ireland’s response extends beyond the four young people they are currently working to relocate. The additional 24 children Ireland has already promised to protect and care for are in an even worse state of limbo - displaced once again, as Member States debate and juggle where responsibility for their safety and wellbeing lies. 

END 

Contact 

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | 087 912 3165

Notes to the Editor 

The signatories are: Oxfam Ireland, Irish Refugee Council, Nasc - Migrant & Refugee Rights, Doras, ActionAid Ireland, JRS Ireland, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, Immigrant Council of Ireland, Comhlámh, Trócaire, Community Work Ireland, Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI), National Youth Council of Ireland, National Women’s Council of Ireland, Children’s Rights Alliance, European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland, Amnesty Ireland, Irish Council for Civil Liberties 

In March 2020 Irish Government joined a ‘Coalition of the Willing’, committing along with 12 other EU member states to take a portion of the 1,600 unaccompanied minors being held on the Greek islands.


Open Letter

RE:  Urgent relocation of unaccompanied minors from the Greek islands to Ireland  

Dear Taoiseach, Minister Coveney, Minister McEntee, Minister O’Gorman and Minister Byrne,  

We are writing to you today to request the urgent relocation of unaccompanied children and young people from the Greek islands to Ireland. For 400 of those children living on Lesvos, their situation was made much worse on Wednesday the 10th of September, when a fire burnt Moria refugee camp to the ground - leaving them destitute.  

Before the fire, Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos hosted nearly 13,000 people in inhumane and unhygienic conditions. The majority of the unaccompanied children living in Moria were living amidst adults in overcrowded sections of camp or sleeping rough in the camp’s overspill area.   

These children have now fled twice – once from persecution and violence in their home countries and now from the burning camp. They are alone in the world and need a safe place now more than ever.  

We welcome the decision taken by the Irish Government in March 2020 to join the ‘Coalition of the Willing’, committing along with 12 other EU member states to take a portion of the 1,600 unaccompanied minors being held on the Greek islands.   

However, to date, Ireland has only taken eight of the 36 children they pledged to relocate as part of this initiative. Last week in the Dáil, on the 15th September, the Taoiseach confirmed that following the fires in Moria, Ireland was working to relocate four unaccompanied minors – when EU member states are being asked to show solidarity and welcome a portion of the 400 children from Moria.   

Ireland’s commitment to take in just four children is significantly below what we would expect from a country like Ireland with a long history of offering refuge for the most vulnerable and its own history of emigration. Given that Ireland successfully campaigned on a platform of promoting human rights and being a voice for the world’s most vulnerable to secure a non-permanent United Nations Security Council seat for the 2021-2022 term, this tragedy provides Ireland with an opportunity to lead by example.  

We are writing today to ask you to do more and ensure Ireland’s contribution extends beyond four unaccompanied children and young people. This includes providing Tusla with the budget needed to do so. Accepting only four still leaves the additional 24 children Ireland has already promised to protect and care for in limbo – and hundreds more besides.   

In the wake of this tragedy, we would strongly urge you to work together to accelerate the relocation of the remaining 24 unaccompanied minors to Ireland and commit to welcoming more. The fire in Moria was a completely preventable tragedy and must be met with a swift response to avoid further suffering.   

Thank you for taking the time to consider this request – we are more than happy to meet with you to discuss the above in more detail if you wish.  

Yours sincerely,   

Oxfam Ireland  

Irish Refugee Council 

Nasc, Migrant & Refugee Rights 

Doras 

ActionAid Ireland  

JRS Ireland 

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland  

Immigrant Council of Ireland  

Comhlámh 

Trócaire 

Community Work Ireland 

Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI) 

National Youth Council of Ireland 

National Women’s Council of Ireland 

Children’s Rights Alliance 

European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland 

Amnesty International Ireland 

Irish Council for Civil Liberties 

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Governments must confront extreme carbon inequality

  • Richest one percent’s carbon emissions more than double those of the poorest half of humanity

  • Top 10 percent in Ireland emit almost as much emissions as the bottom 50 percent

The richest one percent of the world’s population are responsible for more than double the carbon pollution of the poorest half of humanity during a critical 25-year period of unprecedented emissions growth.

In Ireland, the top 10 percent of the Irish population emit nearly as much consumption emissions as the bottom 50 percent, despite there being five times more people in the bottom 50 percent - 2.3million people compared to 475,000.

Oxfam’s new report, Confronting Carbon Inequality, is based on research conducted with the Stockholm Environment Institute and is being released as world leaders prepare to meet at the United Nations General Assembly to discuss global challenges including the climate crisis.

Oxfam is calling on governments, including Ireland’s, to take into account the unequal distribution of consumption emissions among income groups, stating that it mirrors global inequality trends, whereby higher income groups expend significantly more carbon emissions than lower income groups. To achieve climate justice those most responsible for causing climate change, both around the world and in Ireland, have the most responsibility for addressing the twin crises of climate and inequality.

The report assesses the global consumption emissions of different income groups between 1990 and 2015 – 25 years when humanity doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Some findings included:   

  • The richest 10 percent accounted for over half (52 percent) of the emissions added to the atmosphere between 1990 and 2015. The richest one percent were responsible for 15 percent of emissions during this time – more than all the citizens of the EU and more than twice that of the 3.1 billion poorest half of humanity (seven percent).
  • During this time, the richest 10 percent blew one third of our remaining global 1.5C carbon budget, compared to just four percent for the poorest half of the population.
  • Annual emissions grew by 60 percent between 1990 and 2015. The richest five percent were responsible for over a third (37 percent) of this growth. The total increase in emissions of the richest one percent was three times more than that of the poorest 50 percent.

In Ireland, the findings based on 2015 data found:

  • The top 10 percent of the Irish population by income levels, emit over a quarter (26 percent) of consumption emissions, the middle 40 percent emits less than half (45 percent) of emissions, while the bottom 50 percent emits only 29 percent of emissions. Shares among these income groups have not changed markedly over the period 1990-2015.
  • The top 10 percent contributed about a third of the cumulative carbon emissions between 1990 and 2015 - almost as much as the bottom 50 percent (28 percent compared to 29 percent).
  • The top one percent has almost 13 times the average per capita carbon footprint of the bottom half of Irish citizens (66 tCO2 compared to 5 tCO2).  To put this in perspective we need to reach an average per capita carbon footprint of just 2.1 tCO2 by 2030 to achieve our Paris Agreement commitments and keep global heating on track to reach just 1.5C.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said: “Our report highlights the need for governments, including our own, to confront extreme carbon inequality. Until we do that, a wealthy minority will continue to enjoy the luxuries of over-consumption, fuelling the climate crisis at the expense of poor communities and our young people.

“During 2020, and with the world already heating up by around 1C, climate change has already fuelled deadly cyclones in India and Bangladesh, huge locust swarms that have devastated crops across Africa and unprecedented heatwaves and wildfires across Australia and the US.  No one is immune but it is the poorest and most marginalised people who are hardest hit.

“Simply rebooting our outdated, unfair, and polluting pre-Covid economies is no longer a viable option. Governments must seize this opportunity to reshape our economies and build a better tomorrow for us all.”

Carbon emissions are likely to rapidly rebound as governments ease Covid-related lockdowns. If emissions do not keep falling year on year and carbon inequality is left unchecked the remaining carbon budget for 1.5C will be entirely depleted by 2030. However, carbon inequality is so stark the richest 10 percent would blow the carbon budget by 2033 even if all other emissions were cut to zero.

As the Irish Government plans to ramp up climate action, Oxfam is calling on them to tackle both extreme inequality and the climate crisis by targeting the excessive emissions of the richest and investing in poor and vulnerable communities.

Oxfam Ireland is calling on the Irish Government to consider implementing a number of recommendations in the forthcoming budget, including:

  • Ensuring that all climate actions are equality proofed and mechanisms are in place to offset the significant negative impact of climate action on low-income groups 
  • Introduce focused policy measures targeting excessive and luxury emissions
  • End tax breaks for aircraft fuel and explore mechanisms to discourage frequent fliers 
  • Government bailouts and subsidies should end for sectors associated with luxury carbon consumption, and investment expanded in low carbon sectors like health and social care
  • New decent job guarantees should be designed for those sectors of the economy that will be most impacted by the transition to a post-carbon future

Download Oxfam’s Confronting Carbon Inequality report, including research and data as well as Oxfam Ireland’s Confronting Carbon Inequality in Ireland here.

ENDS

CONTACT: For interviews or more information, please contact:

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

Notes to editor:

  • Full Irish and international briefings can be downloaded at this link: https://oxfam.box.com/s/73ftytr1l9ui9vbuhks2pgkgzhgbtl4h
  • The poorest 50 percent of humanity comprised approximately 3.1 billion people on average between 1990 and 2015, the richest 10 percent comprised approx. 630 million people, the richest 5 percent approx. 315 million people, and the richest one percent approximately 63 million people.
  • In 2015, around half the emissions of the richest 10 percent - people with net income over $38,000 - are linked to citizens in the US and the EU and around a fifth with citizens of China and India. Over a third of the emissions of the richest one percent – people with net income over $109,000 - are linked to citizens in the US, with the next biggest contributions from citizens of the Middle East and China. Net incomes are based on income thresholds for 2015 and represented in $ 2011 PPP (purchasing power parity).
  • The carbon budget is the amount of carbon dioxide that can be added to the atmosphere without causing global temperatures to rise above 1.5C – the goal set by governments in the Paris Agreement to avoid the very worst impacts of uncontrolled climate change.
  • The research is based on estimations of consumption emissions from fossil fuels i.e. emissions consumed within a country including emissions embodied in imports and excluding emissions embodied in exports.  National consumption emissions were divided between individual households based on the latest income distribution datasets and a functional relationship between emissions and income. This assumes, on the basis of numerous studies, that emissions rise in proportion to income above a minimum emissions floor and until a maximum emissions ceiling. National household consumption emissions estimates - for 117 countries from 1990 to 2015 - are then sorted into a global distribution according to income. More details on the methodology is available in the research report.
  • The Stockholm Environment Institute is an international non-profit research and policy organisation that tackles environment and development challenges.
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Pandemic profits soar by billions for big companies as poorest pay price

Now is the time to build an economy that puts people first, protects the most vulnerable and shares profits equitably

Thirty-two of the world’s largest companies stand to see their profits jump by US$109 billion more in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic further exposes an unequal economic model that delivers profits for the wealthiest at the expense of the poorest, according to a new Oxfam report today.  

Power, Profits and the Pandemic, published ahead of tomorrow’s six-month anniversary of the declaration of the pandemic, outlines how COVID-19 has made things even worse by encouraging corporations around the globe to put profits before their workers, focusing on short-term returns and maximising efficiencies all while limiting worker and stakeholder power and using their political influence to shape policy responses. Corporations have exacerbated the economic impacts of the pandemic by funnelling profits to shareholders instead of investing in better jobs, paying their fair share of taxes and prioritising their workers.   

Globally, half a billion more people are expected to be pushed into poverty by the economic fallout from the pandemic – and by the end of the year more people could die from hunger linked to COVID-19 than from the disease itself. 400 million jobs have already been lost and the International Labour Organisation estimates that more than 430 million small enterprises are at risk – while the 25 wealthiest billionaires increased their wealth by a staggering US$255 billion between mid-March and late-May alone. 

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, said: “We are at a critical juncture. We have a choice between returning to ‘business as usual’ or learning from this moment and transforming a global economic system that doesn’t work for all, especially those most vulnerable.   

“While workers, their families, and businesses the world over are struggling to survive, some large corporations have either managed to shield themselves from the economic fallout of the pandemic, or even cashed in on the disaster. The excessive profits of these companies would not be a problem if they were widely shared and benefited the rest of society. Instead, we’re seeing low-wage and informal workers across the world struggling to cope with the impact of COVID-19, saying the virus will starve them before it makes them sick. 

“The pandemic must be the catalyst for reining in corporate power, restructuring business models with purpose and creating an economy for all. Our report proposes a blueprint. It all starts and ends with an economic model that puts people at the centre, protects the most vulnerable, shares profits equitably and is grounded in democracy.” 

Oxfam finds that many companies’ ability to cope with the economic damage wreaked by the pandemic and take care of their employees has been severely undermined by years of increased payments to shareholders; some companies having handed over amounts significantly greater than their profits.  

From 2016 to 2019, 59 of the world’s most profitable companies distributed almost $2 trillion to their shareholders, with pay-outs averaging 83 percent of earnings.   

Oxfam is calling for a global response to the crisis that prioritises support for workers and small businesses. It includes establishing a COVID-19 Pandemic Profits Tax to ensure shared sacrifice, and the redeployment of resources away from those cashing in on the pandemic and toward those bearing the burden. One concrete policy that the Irish Government could implement is to require that companies adopt a human rights due diligence approach and identify, prevent, mitigate and account for human rights risks associated with business models in operations and supply chains. The EU is currently considering legislation in this area. 

Long term, Oxfam is asking policymakers and corporations worldwide to re-balance corporate purpose, profits and power away from exclusively benefiting executives and shareholders towards workers, suppliers, consumers and communities. A corporate reform agenda should ensure every worker is paid a living wage, has a safe place to work and a voice in the workplace before a single dividend is paid to shareholders. Corporations must pay their fair share of tax and policy makers must rein in corporate power to stop them from rigging the rules. 

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 editor

Power, Profits and the Pandemic is available here.

The report sets out examples including:   

  • In the US, an estimated 27,000 meat packing workers have tested positive – one in nine employees - and more than 90 have died from COVID-19. The country’s largest meat processing company, Tyson Foods, published a letter advocating against closing its factories, despite 8,500 of its employees testing positive for the virus. 
  • Ten of the world’s largest apparel brands paid 74 percent of their profits (a total of $21 billion) to their shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks in 2019. This year 2.2 million workers in Bangladesh alone were affected when textile orders were cancelled. Factory shutdowns have lowered revenues in the country by an estimated $3 billion. 
  • In India, hundreds of tea plantation workers, many of them women, have gone unpaid as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. At the same time, some of the largest Indian tea companies have boosted their profits or have been able to maintain profit margins by cutting costs.   
  • Mining operations in Peru have been kept open despite high risks of infection among their employees.  
  • Chevron announced cuts of 10-15 percent of its 45,000 global work force despite spending more cash on dividends and share buybacks during the first quarter of the year than they generated from core business.  
  • Nigeria's largest cement company, Dangote Cement, allegedly fired more than 3,000 staff without prior notice or due process while the company is still expected to pay 136 percent of its profits to shareholders in 2020.  
  • Jeff Bezos is the founder and owner of Amazon. Amazon’s market capitalisation is over $1.5 trillion[1] and Jeff Bezos is now the richest man on earth worth around $200 billion[2].  His wealth has increased with $92 billion in only five months, between 18 March and 20 August 2020. Bezos could have paid each of Amazon’s 876,000 employees a $105,000 bonus and would still be as wealthy as he was at the onset of the pandemic.[3] Invested over 25 years at 6 percent interest rate this bonus would increase to $450,000 in retirement savings for each employee.  

Solutions: 

  • RESPOND: TAX COVID-19 SUPER PROFITS FOR THE GREATER GOOD: With millions out of work and governments’ struggling to effectively respond to the pandemic, companies earning exorbitant profits for the already wealthy and well-connected will no longer suffice. These outsized gains should be taxed to level the playing field between companies and raise much needed funding for COVID-19 relief and recovery. 
  • REFORM: PURPOSE, PEOPLE, PROFITS AND POWER: This is the time for governments to create incentives and limitations to radically rein in corporate power and create an economy for everyone that will withstand a transition into a world permanently altered by climate change. We need an economic model that puts people at the centre, protects the most vulnerable, shares profits equitably, and is grounded in democracy. Both governments and the private sector have a role to play in this reform. Purpose: redefining the ‘why’ of business; People: putting people at the centre of business; Profits: ensuring a fair share for all stakeholders; Power: transforming how corporations are governed. 
  • REBUILD: PROMOTING VIABLE ALTERNATIVES: A fundamental change in business models is not utopian. Viable alternatives exist and continue to gain traction. Social enterprises, cooperatives, mission-led businesses and fair trade enterprises are just a few examples of the diverse range of organisations that prioritise the interests of workers, farmers, communities and the environment over returns to investors.  

 

 

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BEIRUT: One month since the blast and thousands are unable to rebuild their homes, warn Oxfam

One month since the blast and thousands can’t afford a front door

One month since the massive blast in Beirut, tens of thousands of vulnerable people are unable to rebuild their homes, with a single front door costing two months’ worth of a minimum-wage salary, warned Oxfam today.   

Longstanding inequality, massive inflation and COVID-19 have compounded this humanitarian disaster for tens of thousands of people, making it almost impossible for them to recover.  

Bachir Ayoub, Oxfam’s Policy Lead in Lebanon said: “Huge inflation has meant the cost of basic materials needed to rebuild homes and businesses is out of reach for thousands of people who were already struggling to get by before the blast. With a minimum wage of just under $450 a month, the cost of replacing one window is now nearly $500 and a door up to $1000. These families need urgent assistance to recover from this disaster and rebuild their lives.” 

The blast came at time when thousands of people where already on the brink. An estimated 50 percent of the population was living under the poverty line, the Lira’s value had dropped 80 percent since October, migrant workers were being abandoned and forced out on the streets, cash was almost impossible to access, and restrictive measures to contain the pandemic prevented casual workers from getting to their jobs.  

Ayoub continued: “Following the blast, an estimated 70,000 additional workers are now jobless and half of all wholesale, retail and hospitality establishments near the blast site have been destroyed.  

“In the most affected areas, the majority of people are low and middle- income workers who earn the minimum wage or less. Most of them have lost their jobs in the port or the businesses in the devastated areas. Many people are struggling to put food on the table, let alone repair their houses.” 

Oxfam is working with Lebanese organisations to ensure that Beirut’s most marginalised people are not left behind and instead have the support they need to recover from the blast - but there is still so much that needs to be done for Beirut to begin to recover.  

Celine El Kik, a social worker from Oxfam partner KAFA says the mental scars of the blast will linger long after the physical damage has been repaired: “The port explosion affected all of us, but especially women who were already vulnerable. We're providing social and legal support, as well as cash assistance for people who lost their jobs or their houses.”  

Oxfam calls for fair and just distribution of aid to provide critical support to vulnerable communities and people who will be unable to rebuild their lives without targeted and transparent aid 

Ayoub concluded: “We are worried that the growing inequality and suffering we were already seeing in some of Lebanon’s most vulnerable communities – like refugees and migrant workers, the elderly and LGBTQ+ community – will only get worse in the coming months as winter sets in.” 

END

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 the editor:

  • The Minimum wage in Lebanon is set by the Government at 675,000 LBP which was equivalent to $450 this time last year 
  • One-meter square of average quality (6mm) glass cost 16$ before the explosion. After August 4th, and with the increasing prices in the market, the Ministry of Economy specified the prices of one-meter square of glass with an aluminum frame at $500 
  • The average market price of a door with quality locks is currently 700-1000 USD 
  • To respond to the impact of the blast Oxfam is working with 11 partners to deliver emergency support including distribution of food parcels and the provision of emergency and temporary cash assistance, household rehabilitation, legal assistance and consultation, psycho-social support and medication. The services are provided to families and individuals in the affected areas including women, girls, LGBTQ+ community members, people with disabilities and migrant workers. 
  • Oxfams partners under the Beirut Response are Lebanese Centre for Human Rights (CLDH), KAFA, Anti-Racism Movement (ARM), Basmeh and Zeitooneh (B&Z), Lebanese Physically Handicapped Union (LPHU), Lebanese observatory for workers and employees rights (LOWER), HELEM, Legal Agenda (LA), Mada Association, Arc En Ciel and People’s Solidarity, hosted by a partner organization called Social Media Exchange (SMEXs) 
  • Since March 2020, Oxfam in Lebanon has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic to address the needs of vulnerable communities in the Bekaa Valley. Along with local partners, Oxfam continues to distribute water, soap and disinfection kits to refugees in the informal tented settlements. 
  • Oxfam in Lebanon works on active citizenship and good governance, economic justice and humanitarian programmes. 
  • Oxfam has been working in Lebanon since 1993 providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people affected by conflict, and promoting economic development, good governance at a local and national level, and women’s rights through work with local partners. Oxfam also works with local partners to contribute to the protection and empowerment of marginalized women and men.  
  • Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world: 1 out of every 4 people. In response to the Syria crisis, Oxfam has been providing water and sanitation, and emergency cash assistance for refugees and poor Lebanese, helping refugees with legal protection issues, and supporting small businesses and private-sector job creation. Oxfam is currently working in North Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, South Lebanon, and in Palestinian camps and gatherings.
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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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