UN calls for evacuation of Greek refugee camps amid virus threat

There has not been a confirmed case of coronavirus case in Greek refugee camps, but that is a catastrophe waiting to happen, the UNHCR warned. In refugee camps where asylum seekers are poorly fed and suffer from various diseases, the results could be extreme, according to Dimitris Patestos, the head of the Lesbos branch of the Doctors of the World.

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The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called for the evacuation of asylum seekers in squalid camps on the Greek islands amid coronavirus threat.

Boris Cheshirkov, a UNHCR representative in Greece, has drawn attention to cramped conditions of the refugee camps as well as sanitation concerns, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported on March 31.

The conditions of the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos are said to be very alarming as the camp has a capacity of 3,000 people, but currently hosts 20,000 refugees. The UNCHR has for months now demanding that refugees are taken to mainland Greece.

Cheshirkov said that they were offering financial help to refugees for them to buy sanitizers and also offering aid to the camps' administrations for them to maintain sanitary conditions amid the virus outbreak.

Some 40,000 asylum seekers are currently on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kosi whereas camps on these islands are designed to accommodate only 6,000 people.

The authorities are currently setting up medical containers in which coronavirus patients can be isolated and treated.

Dimitris Patestos, the head of the Lesbos branch of the Doctors of the World (Medecins du Monde), said that a container was placed in front of the Moria camp.

“A doctor and a nurse work in the container. Should this be a measure to prevent and fight the coronavirus?” Patestos asked, convinced that the virus can break out at any time on the island.

Organizations like the UNHCR have already reduced their workforce because of the pandemic. In a camp like Moria, where many cough after winter anyway, are poorly fed, and suffer from various diseases, the effects could be extreme, Patestos warned.

So far, the island of Lesbos has had two coronavirus cases, but these cases are at another part of the island – far away from the Moria camp.