Greek refugee camps should be evacuated immediately – MSF

Refugees held in squalid camps on Greek islands are especially vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus and should be evacuated immediately, said medical aid group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Thursday.

“Given the lack of adequate sanitation services and severely limited medical care at these entry points, the risk of the virus spreading amongst the inhabitants of the camps is extremely high once they have been exposed,” said MSF.

“In some parts of Moria camp there is just one water tap for every 1,300 people and no soap available,” said Dr. Hilde Vochten, MSF’s medical coordinator in Greece. “Families of five or six have to sleep in spaces of no more than three square metres. This means that recommended measures such as frequent hand washing and social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus are just impossible.”

A Greek citizen tested positive for the coronavirus on the island of Lesbos earlier this week, underlining the urgent need to evacuate the camps, said MSF.

Vochten said MSF had not seen a credible plan to protect people living in camps from coronavirus, such as measures for identification of cases and isolation, management of mild cases, as well as the treatment of severe and critical cases.

The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic, with a death toll of over 4,600 people and more than 124,000 confirmed cases.

Camps in Greek islands currently hold around 42,000 asylum seekers.

During a visit to Athens on Thursday, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said up to 5,000 migrants living in squalid, overcrowded camps on the Greek islands would be offered 2,000 euros “of financial and technical support for their departure and towards reintegration in their home countries”.