Tuesday

2nd Jun 2020

Coronavirus

EU: Athens can handle Covid outbreak at Greek camp

  • 20 people at the Ritsona refugee camp near Athens have tested positive (Photo: Ritsona Refugee Camp)

The European Commission says Greece will be able to manage a Covid-19 outbreak at a refugee camp near Athens.

"I think they can manage," Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for home affairs, told MEPs on Thursday (2 April).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The outbreak is linked to the Ritsona camp of some 2,700 people who are all now under quarantine.

At least 23 have been tested positive without showing any symptoms. Greek authorities had identified the first case after a woman from the camp gave birth at a hospital earlier this week.

"This development confirms the fact that this fast-moving virus does not discriminate and can affect both migrant and local communities," Gianluca Rocco, who heads the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Greece, said in a statement.

Another six cases linked to local residents have also been identified on the Greek islands.

Notis Mitarachi, Greece's minister of migration and asylum, said there are no confirmed cases of the disease in any of the island refugee camps.

"We have only one affected camp, that is on the mainland, very close to Athens where 20 people have tested positive," he said.

Over 40,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are stuck on the islands. Of those, some 20,000 are in Moria, a camp on Lesbos island that is designed to house only 3,000.

It is unlikely conditions will improve any time soon with Mitarachi noting major changes will only take place before the year's end. He said the construction of new camps on the mainland first have to be completed.

"We do not have rooms in the mainland," he said, when pressed on why there have been no mass evacuations from the islands.

He placed some of the blame on the EU-Turkey deal, noting anyone transferred to the mainland cannot be returned to Turkey. Turkey has since the start of March refused to accept any returns given the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the deal, Mitarachi noted 10,000 people had still been transferred to the mainland so far this year. He also insisted all measures are being taken to ensure the safety of the Greek island camp refugees.

In reality, Moria has one functioning faucet per 1,300 people. A lockdown also has been imposed, making any notions of social distancing impossible.

He said all new arrivals from Turkey are separated and kept away from the camps. Special health units will also be dispatched into the camps to test for cases, he said.

Mitarachi is demanding other EU states help take in people, to ease the pressure.

Eight EU states had in early March pledged to take in 1,600 unaccompanied minors. The Commission says it expects the first relocations to take place before Easter at the latest.

The money

Greece has also been earmarked some €700m of EU funds to help in the efforts.

The first €350m has already been divided up.

Around €190m will go to paying rental accommodation for 25,000 beds on the mainland and provide cash assistance to 90,000 people under the aegis of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

Another €100m will go to 31 camps run by the International Organization for Migration. Approximately €25m will go to help families and kids on the islands through the UNHCR.

And €35m is set to help relocate others out of the camps and into hotels.

The remaining €350m will go to building five new migrant centres (€220m), help pay for returns (€10m), support the Greek asylum service (€50m), enforce borders (€50m), and give an additional €10m each to Frontex and the EU's asylum agency, Easo.

Coronavirus: Greek island refugees in semi-lockdown

Greece has banned large pubic gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus, while imposing a curfew on thousands of asylum seekers and migrants living in misery in overcrowded camps, with one water tap for 1,300 people at one camp.

Berlin ready to airlift Greek island refugees

Berlin's justice minister Dirk Behrendt has said the city is ready to airlift up to 1,500 asylum seekers and refugees stuck on the Greek islands, as German activists collect money to pay for the evacuation.

Refugees across Europe help fight the pandemic

From the Netherlands to Italy, refugees and asylum seekers are stepping forward to help in the fight against the pandemic. Some are trained doctors, others are cleaners, while others help out the homeless on Europe's streets.

Feature

Beethoven vs Virus: How his birthplace Bonn is coping

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Bonn cancelled Beethoven: the much-anticipated 'Beethovenfest', as well as numerous concerts, exhibits and theatre performances were called off, some of the events were rescheduled for 2021.

Spain takes 'giant step' on guaranteed minimum income

The minimum income guarantee was a condition included in the coalition agreement between the Socialists and the leftist group Unidas Podemos, after the indecisive results of the November national elections.

News in Brief

  1. Trump threatens to use army to crush unrest in US
  2. Trump wants Russia back in G7-type group
  3. Iran: Fears of second wave as corona numbers rise again
  4. WHO: Overuse of antibiotics to strengthen bacterial resistance
  5. Orban calls EU Commission recovery plan 'absurd'
  6. ABBA's Björn new president of authors' rights federation
  7. Malta and Libya to create anti-migrant 'units'
  8. France reopening bars and parks next week

Feature

Why developing countries may be last to get the vaccine

'The current standard for vaccines is to be kept at two to eight degrees and that is really tough in many developing countries when it can be up to 50 degrees outside,' warn experts on the challenges facing low-income countries.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Latest News

  1. Malta fiddles on migrants, as Libya burns
  2. Borrell: EU doesn't need to choose between US and China
  3. Post-Brexit and summer travel talks This WEEK
  4. State-level espionage on EU tagged as 'Very High Threat'
  5. Beethoven vs Virus: How his birthplace Bonn is coping
  6. EU's new migration pact must protect people on the move
  7. Spain takes 'giant step' on guaranteed minimum income
  8. Vestager hits back at Lufthansa bailout criticism

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us