Refugees: what if the virus reaches Moria?

So far not a single case of Covid-19 has been registered in the hotspots on the Aegean Islands. Nonetheless, stringent measures now also apply for the refugees living there. Now only a single family member is allowed to do the shopping. And health stations are to be set up to deal with cases of infection. NGOs, however, are calling for the camps to be evacuated - and commentators agree.

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Efimerida ton Syntakton (GR) /

Health only for the Greeks

The measures taken by the government in Athens are inadequate and put the lives of refugees in danger, Efimerida ton Syntakton complains:

“The Greek government seems to be openly applying the doctrine of 'health only for Greeks', leaving the population in overcrowded camps without basic sanitation. The government's policy towards refugees is based on the concept of notorious 'herd immunity', according to which those most at risk of dying are abandoned while stronger organisms prevail. Moreover, since the change of government asylum seekers have been denied access to the health system because the card system that was supposed to replace social security numbers has not been put into practice.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Make the impossible possible here too

The Frankfurter Rundschau laments the fact that the Hippocratic oath does not seem to apply to helping those stranded on the Aegean islands:

“There are still tens of thousands of refugees crammed into tents with minimal healthcare. They will be completely at the mercy of the virus. One case has already been reported on Lesbos. All calls to evacuate the camps, or to at least adapt them to international standards, have died away, and there is no sign of a political solution at the EU level. But if the last few days have shown one thing, it is that the crisis makes possible things that seemed unthinkable. This must also apply to Lesbos and the other islands. And one thing should be added to the humanitarian argument: the medical disaster that is looming there would also hit the Greeks.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Lesbos threatens to become a corona hotspot

Those seeking protection on Europe's periphery must not be forgotten in the current crisis, warns Der Standard:

“On Lesbos, it's only a matter of time before the coronavirus races through the population of the cramped camps whose inmates live under appalling hygiene conditions. The Greek authorities have imposed a kind of quarantine - no aid organisations are allowed in. Médecins sans Frontières says that, given that there is just one water tap per 1,300 people and that six people sleep in a small plastic tent, not even regular hand-washing or even 'social distancing' are possible. Lesbos threatens to become a new, dreadful corona hotspot. If Europe is now rightly flooded with billions upon billions in funds, there should be a few million to get children out and to build new, smaller, better camps.”

Der Nordschleswiger (DK) /

We must not turn a blind eye

The corona crisis is making the plight of the refugees far worse, Der Nordschleswiger also warns:

“Sooner or later the virus will reach the camps on Europe's external borders and in the regions around Europe, for example the Maghreb states. … It has already caused numerous aid projects to be suspended. ... Let us hope that the virus will be stopped before it reaches these camps. That it doesn't take the loss of human lives and 'mass deaths' to show us that we, as part of the international community, have a responsibility to finally create a solidary and sustainable European refugee and migration policy that is not based on the motto: 'out of sight, out of mind'. No matter where we stand politically or how concerned we are about ourselves: we cannot turn a blind eye to this now.”

Keskisuomalainen (FI) /

Epidemic in Syria just a matter of time

The virus will also be able to spread rapidly in the war-torn country from which many people have fled, Keskisuomalainen fears:

“The region's health system is already at breaking point after years of fighting. Now the coronavirus poses another threat. The WHO estimates that only half of the region's healthcare services work. The refugees are not organised, they have no government, no authorities. Iran is one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus. And its military commitment in Syria is so great that it's only a matter of time before the coronavirus breaks out among the war refugees.”