Following, the first COVID-19 case reported by Greek authorities in the Vial refugee camp on the island of Chios, which with 3,800 people is three times over capacity, the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament strongly re-iterate their call for the immediate evacuation of the overcrowded Greek island camps.
Kati Piri, S&D Vice-president responsible for a strong and values-based Europe in the world, said:
“The first known coronavirus case inside one of the island camps is beyond alarming. Due to the constant overcrowding of the camps, calls for measures like isolation or social distancing are simply delusional. Due to the shortage of soap and water people are not even able to follow basic hygiene like washing their hands to contain the virus. As the health situation of many people has already deteriorated due to the poor conditions in the camps, the risk of the virus causing severe symptoms or even leading to death is very real.
“The measures that have so far been taken are inadequate. While a small number of refugees have been allowed to leave the Greek islands, many belonging to high risk groups due to their age or a chronic medical condition, remain in a vulnerable position. Humanitarian organisations have issued warnings that the camps remain unprepared to deal with a large-scale outbreak. It is therefore unacceptable that the Greek authorities have enforced the closure of a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) COVID-19 isolation centre next to Moria reception centre on the island of Lesbos - with 15,000 people by far the most overcrowded camp on the Greek islands. Especially since there are only six intensive care beds available on Lesbos, I call upon the authorities to immediately withdraw this decision.
“It is clear that swift and decisive action is needed to avoid a further humanitarian disaster. While a number of European Member States have taken their responsibility by relocating unaccompanied minors, the arrival of the coronavirus in the camps asks for additional measures. Apart from financial resources for increased capacity for hospitalisation and intensive care, immediate evacuation of people at high risk from the camps is needed to save lives. Particularly in this midst of this pandemic, Europe needs to show that solidarity still is one of its highest ideals.”
Birgit Sippel, S&D MEP and spokesperson on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, said:
“It is a humanitarian scandal that EU Member States do not make good on their promise to take in refugees from the Greek island camps. Since March, ten EU Member States have agreed to accept at least 1,600 refugee children from overcrowded camps on the Greek islands – but only a fraction of this number have actually been relocated. My own home country Germany committed to receiving 928 refugees until the end of August, but has until now also failed to fulfil its promises. This is unacceptable – even more so if you look at the different federal states within Germany and individual cities willing to take in even more refugees. We will be on Member States heels to make sure they live up to their promise!
“For those refugees, who at the moment cannot be relocated to other EU countries, there is only one solution and that is to improve basic hygiene conditions and to ensure social distancing: refugees must get out of the camps and be accommodated in hotels and holiday apartments. Many hotels and apartments are still empty, and of course, they would get reimbursed for the costs incurred. The Commission is planning to spend millions for securing our external borders, spending a small portion of the money on ensuring people, who have to come to us seeking protection, are safe and the spread of the virus is contained, seems like the least we can and must do.
“The Corona pandemic is changing our societies profoundly. How we treat the most vulnerable will be decisive for the kind of society we will live in post-Corona.”