Refugees on Greek islands: MEPs urge evacuation of camps to prevent spread of COVID-19 

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  • First case in Lesvos; over 42.000 asylum-seekers in extremely vulnerable situation 
  • Isolation and social distancing impossible due to overcrowding; lack of hygiene 
  • Priority evacuation of high-risk population (elderly and those with preconditions) 

In order to control the COVID-19 pandemic, preventive measures have to be applied to everyone, including asylum-seekers living in overcrowded hotspots on the Greek islands.

Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES), Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee, has written to Commissioner Janez Lenarčič -s European Emergency Response Coordinator and Chair of the Crisis Coordination Committee-, on behalf of the whole committee, calling for an “immediate European response” to avoid the humanitarian crisis on the Greek islands becoming a public health issue, with the risk of many deaths.

After a first case has been confirmed on the island of Lesvos, “one of the main issues to be addressed to avoid the quick and wide spread of COVID-19 is the urgent preventive evacuation of the overcrowded camps”, notes the text.

Many of those in the camps (42.000 people in total) are already in a precarious health situation and, despite the measures taken by the Greek authorities, the overcrowding and the dire living conditions make it difficult to contain COVID-19, MEPs warn.

“There is no chance of isolation or social distancing, nor is it possible to ensure appropriate hygienic conditions. (…) There are only six intensive care beds available on the island of Lesvos (…) and the necessary health equipment is not at present available on the islands”, they add.

MEPs demand an action plan that should include:

  • Preventive evacuation of the population at high risk including those older than 60 and people with respiratory conditions, diabetes of other diseases;
  • Increased cooperation amongst EU member states’ health care systems;
  • Additional financial resources for increased hospitalization capacity and intensive care, and
  • Relocation, in particular of children, must not be put on hold due to the pandemic.

“There will be no true control of the COVID-19 outbreak without preventive measures for all, including asylum-seekers. We therefore urge you to undertake immediate action and start with the preventive evacuation of the most vulnerable groups in the camps on the Greek islands. This is of crucial importance to save their lives and decongest the hotspots”, concludes the letter.

Read the full letter.