Saturday

15th Aug 2020

Coronavirus

Half of refugees at German camp test Covid-19 positive

  • Ellwangen camp in Baden-Wurttemberg has some 250 confirmed case of Covid-19 (Photo: Anonymous)

Nearly half of the roughly 600 people at a refugee camp in Germany have tested positive for Covid-19, but are being forced to share facilities with everyone else.

EUobserver was first alerted when an anonymous resident painted a bleak picture inside Ellwangen camp in Baden-Wurttemberg, a state in southern Germany.

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

  • Ellwangen canteen (Photo: Anonymous)

"Everyone is scared to eat something because of crowds and we don't know who has coronavirus or not," said the resident, who did not disclose his name, in an email sent over the weekend.

Some 250 people have the disease, a massive increase from around seven just a week ago, with more cases of infections expected.

District authorities at Ostalbkreis, where Ellwangen is located, announced they will eventually retest everyone "in order to determine which persons have become additionally infected."

The entire camp has been placed in lockdown since the start of April, with police guarding the entrance to make sure no one leaves or enters.

Seán McGinley, a manager at the Baden-Wurtenburg Refugee Council, said that the authorities handling of Ellwangen camp is a recipe for disaster.

"They are seeing these people as a kind of threat and a danger, it iseems to be an acceptable strategy to park the police outside and make sure nobody comes in and nobody comes out," he told EUobserver on Wednesday (15 April).

He pointed out that the Refugee Council had demanded an evacuation of the camp some three weeks ago, a proposal that was ignored by authorities.

"It is about half the people who there in total, just short of 600 people who are in there at the moment," he said, when asked about the infection numbers.

According to German media reports, Ellwangen has 587 residents, of which around half are male. The rest are families and women travelling alone, and come from places like Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

It is also designed as a communal space and residency for people who first arrive in Germany seeking international protection. It means they share bathrooms, showers, toilets and rooms. They are not allowed to cook and must get their food in a canteen.

"They are not even allowed to boil a kettle to make coffee in their own rooms," said McGinley.

The entire facility was put in lockdown on 5 April after a 32-year old man from Ghana first tested positive.

The number of infections has only since increased as police forces have been dispatched to impose a lockdown. A single wi-fi hotspot inside the camp was also recently switched off, placing residents in a near total information blackout.

McGinley said authorities had rented a facility able to quarantine some 30 people but because of its size it is of little use.

"It is not going to be a solution where you have 250 people who are infected," he pointed out.

Similar stories of refugees in lockdown amid an infection outbreak are being reported elsewhere in Germany.

Among them is the Halberstadt refugee centre in Sachsen-Anhalt, in quarantine since 27 March.

Some 100 of the 800 residents at the centre went on hunger strike in protest given the outbreak, the lack of hygiene, and lack of space to keep everyone at a safe distance.

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.

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.

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.

Opinion

Migrant healthcare must not be forgotten during Covid-19

Previous claims that migrants bring communicable diseases to host countries have been debunked by a review of the existing evidence carried out earlier this year. In fact, migrants are currently more at risk of contracting Covid-19 from Europeans.

News in Brief

  1. Most EU states oppose US sanctions on Russia pipeline
  2. UK imposes quarantine on France, Netherlands, Malta
  3. At least 3.5m EU nationals to stay in UK
  4. UK urged to 'calm down' on migrants
  5. Pompeo starts EU tour with anti-Chinese 5G deal
  6. Dutch lawsuit seeks billions from tech firms
  7. Amazon people urge EU banks to stop funding pollution
  8. Russia vaccine could be "dangerous", Germany says

Opinion

Italy has a responsibility, too

Little wonder the leaders of Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden are unwilling to sign off: they're not going to give money so the Italians can fund a tax cut in the middle of an economic crisis.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us