Wednesday

14th Apr 2021

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

Become an expert on Europe

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.

MEPs raise concerns on vaccine 'travel certificates'

While most MEPs have been vocal in support of the proposal by the European Commission for EU-wide vaccine certificates, key questions remain - ranging from fundamental rights, to its scientific validity.

China responds to 'low-efficacy' vaccine fears

Concern over the low efficiency of Chinese-made vaccines has been mounting since China's top official said existing vaccines offer low protection against Covid-19 - raising questions for those nations relying heavily on the Chinese jabs. That includes Hungary and Serbia.

News in Brief

  1. EU states make progress on Covid-19 'travel certificates'
  2. Michel pledges to protect von der Leyen's 'dignity' in future
  3. Libya frees UN-sanctioned human trafficker
  4. European court: jailed Turkish writer's rights violated
  5. EU set to miss 1m electric charging points by 2025 target
  6. Lavrov expects Iran nuclear deal to be saved
  7. France suspends flights from Brazil due to Covid variant
  8. Johnson & Johnson delays roll-out of vaccine in EU

Feature

Italy's mafias - boosted by Covid, now eyeing EU's billions

Italy's various mafias are allegedly exploiting the chaos caused by the Covid-19 emergency to infiltrate even deeper into sectors where they are already present, such as healthcare, mortuary services, and waste disposal (both medical and non-medical).

EU missed March vaccination target for priority groups

The EU failed to reach its target of having at least 80 percent of the elderly and healthcare workers vaccinated by the end of March. According to estimates, 55 percent will be vaccinated by the end of June.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. Nato and US urge Russia to back off on Ukraine
  2. Future EU platform seeks to 'stay clean' of hate speech
  3. Denmark threatens Syria deportations amid EU concerns
  4. MEPs raise concerns on vaccine 'travel certificates'
  5. Will Romania be EU's Green Deal laggard?
  6. Muslims, Ramadan, and myths facing 'European civilisation'
  7. Europe & Africa - rebuilding the future
  8. How the pandemic became an EU goldmine for crime

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us