Greece: Urgently protect refugees from COVID-19

While the world is facing the crisis of COVID-19 pandemic, the risks for refugees in the Greek islands are multiplying by the hour. Thousands of older people, people with chronic diseases, children, pregnant women, new mothers and people with disabilities are trapped there in dangerously overcrowded conditions. Now, they also face the threat of the COVID 19 pandemic, the consequences of which would be catastrophic for those confined in camps.

In addition to protecting the rest of the population, the Greek Government must take immediate measures to protect refugees from the pandemic and move them to safety.

The living conditions for refugees and asylum seekers on the islands are inhumane. As of 22 March, the population of the camps on Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos, and Leros was approximately 37,000, while facilities have a total capacity of just 6,095. The population in camps has extremely limited access to water, toilets, and showers. People have to wait in line for hours for food and live in precarious tents or containers with no heating. The number of medical and nursing personnel is woefully insufficient. Furthermore, anyone who has arrived since last July is not allowed to access public health care.

Instead of protecting them from COVID-19, the Greek government is restricting refugees’ movement further and continues to illegally refuse asylum applications from new arrivals. These conditions make it impossible to protect the welfare of those in camps and put people at great risk in the face of the growing threat of COVID-19. In the event of an outbreak in camps, a quarantine will lead to many preventable deaths.

The Greek Authorities, with the help of the European Union, must uphold the human rights and dignity of refugees and act immediately to protect the lives of those living in refugee camps on the Greek islands.

Take action now and send a message to Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, urging him to:  

  • Safely move people off the islands to appropriate accommodation on the mainland.
  • Ensure that the camps have sufficient medical personnel and services. Supply adequate hygiene products, ensure continuous running water, disinfection of areas, as well as timely collection and removal of waste.
  • Grant free access to healthcare in the public system to asylum-seekers and migrants without discrimination, including testing and treatment for COVID-19 along with preventive measures.