Saturday

6th Jun 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.

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  • 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.

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