Tuesday

5th Jul 2022

Refugees across Europe help fight the pandemic

  • Governments across Europe are asking asylum seekers for help (Photo: European Commission)

Asylum seekers and refugees in the small Dutch town of Ter Apel are volunteering to help keep local residents free from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among them is 23-year old Dyar, a Kurdish asylum seeker from northern Syria. Along with two dozen other asylum seekers, Dyar is disinfecting shopping carts and baskets outside Jumbo and Aldi grocery stores.

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

"We are cleaning trollies there because we do our best to keep people safe," he told EUobserver by phone on Monday (6 April).

Dyar did not want to disclose his last name. But he said local reaction to their volunteer efforts, often posted on social media, has been overwhelmingly positive.

"We help everyone and if I say the people, I mean all the people," he said, noting many of the volunteers come from Algeria, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Tajikistan.

Dutch and English-speaking supervisors help guide the teams to make sure everything runs smoothly with the locals.

With places for 2,000 asylum seekers, Ter Apel is the Netherlands' largest reception centre. It has also been one of strife, following past complaints of shoplifting by a handful of asylum seekers. Such actions painted almost everyone else in a negative light.

"We have good people inside and we have bad people and we do our best to do what we can to change people to be better," said Dyar, noting their efforts are creating new positive connections with local residents.

Public perception aside, the politics surrounding migration throughout much of the European Union is often toxic.

When asked last month if the Netherlands would assist Greece by taking in child asylum seekers from the overcrowded camps on the Aegean islands, the government in the Hague refused.

"We are not willing to take over children," Dutch security and justice minister Ankie Broekers-Knol told reporters in Brussels.

Those comments were in response to stalled efforts at the European Union-level to remove 1,600 unaccompanied minors from overcrowded camps on the Greek islands to eight EU states.

Despite often being subjected to political attacks, refugees across the EU are coming forward to help.

The Seine-et-Marne municipality in the outskirts of Paris in late March asked refugees to step in to help pick strawberries and asparagus crops given a shortage of labour.

Authorities in Saxony in Germany posted similar requests, demanding migrants with medical backgrounds to help fight the pandemic. The region is also an epicentre for the far-right nationalist Alternative for Germany party, which typically rails against migrants. Now migrants are being recruited to shore up medical staff.

Spain also recruited 200 foreign doctors and health workers to help out. And in Austria, civil society has teamed up with the UN refugee agency UNHCR to recruit health workers, rubbish collectors and other needed services.

Refugees feeding homeless in Italy

In the northern Italian city of Turin, another group of refugees are helping out the homeless.

Mosaico is a refugee-led organisation based there, and helps asylum seekers when it comes to legal problems and integration.

But with the pandemic hitting northern Italy hard, the organisation has suspended its activities to focus on how to best fight the virus.

"We help out not only refugees but also the homeless," Yagoub Kibeida, Mosaico's director told EUobserver.

He said some 150 asylum seekers, including families, are living in abandoned buildings in Turin. Others sleep in homeless shelters overnight. Such shelters typically require people to leave during the day.

But the municipality is now allowing them to remain inside the shelter and off the streets. Mosaico has since stepped up to feed those at the shelters, regardless of nationality or background.

The organisation has also developed an app where people can find out where to sleep, eat for free, take a shower, or other services.

"All the people in the city of Torino can make use of it. Refugees, non-refugees," he said.

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.

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.

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

EU unable to comment on Italy and Malta port closures

Ports in Italy and Malta closed amid claims they are no longer safe because of the pandemic. The move means NGO rescue vessels are in limbo. The European Commission says it cannot pass any judgement on the closures.

Half of refugees at German camp test Covid-19 positive

Around half of the 600 residents have tested positive for Covid-19 at the Ellwangen camp in Baden-Wurttemberg, in southern Germany. Camp residents, many of them families, are forced to share facilities with those infected as police impose a lockdown.

Opinion

How industry watered-down new EU supply chain rules

The Commission fell hook, line, and sinker for the arguments of big business on the corporate due diligence directive — conflating rules and regulations with so-called 'red tape' and rebranding regulations as 'burdens' on business which should be scrapped.

Podcast

Against white feminism: European edition

Author Rafia Zakaria turned the feminist world upside down with her bestselling book Against White Feminism. She talks with the Brussels-based journalist Shada Islam about the prevalence of white feminist thinking in Europe — particularly France.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey signs Nato protocol despite Sweden extradition row
  2. European gas production hit by Norway strike
  3. EU Commission told to step up fight against CAP fraud
  4. Ukraine needs €719bn to rebuild, says PM
  5. Germany records first monthly trade deficit since 1991
  6. Pilots from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden strike
  7. Report: EU to sign hydrogen deal with Namibia
  8. Israel and Poland to mend relations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. EU Parliament sued over secrecy on Nazi MEP expenses
  2. Italy glacier tragedy has 'everything to do' with climate change
  3. The Digital Services Act — a case-study in keeping public in dark
  4. Report slams German opposition to new child sexual abuse rules
  5. Is China a challenge to Nato? Beijing responds
  6. ECB announces major green shift in corporate bond-buying
  7. Ex-Frontex chief 'uninvited' from parliament committee
  8. Czech presidency and key nuclear/gas vote This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us