That is the stark verdict of human rights researchers who claim that Greece faces a “nightmare within a nightmare” if an outbreak occurs at a time when the country remains in financial ruin. Express.co.uk has reported that around 38,000 refugees are currently living in horror camps, with no water or electricity to support them. The refugees are from Turkey, which allowed them to travel to the EU after disobeying its pact with the bloc over controlled migration.
Turkey’s reluctance to continue with the deal came as a result of Brussels’ flawed approach over where the refugees would be rehomed afterwards.
With thousands of people, many children, crammed into these destitute areas fit to home only 6,000, mass panic has erupted throughout the Aegean islands, where they are currently residing.
Locals and volunteers fear that at any moment, a coronavirus case could be contracted, leading to a rapid spread throughout the unhygienic camps.
Earlier this week, the International Rescue Committee described the situation as a “tinderbox ready to explode,” before calling on EU member states to help move the refugees on to safe locations within the bloc.
But now, researcher group Human Rights Watch is demanding Greece take action to avoid a nightmare scenario, where cases of the infection starkly rise on its islands.
The HRW joined 21 other human rights organisations in condemning the Greek government, which has received millions in support from the EU in tackling the refugee crisis.
Eva Cosse, Greece researcher at HRW, said: “Restricting thousands of women, men, and children in severely overcrowded camps, where living conditions are unacceptable, makes it impossible to isolate people exposed to COVID-19 or to comply with minimum preventive and protective measures, even hand washing and social-distancing.
“The Greek government urgently needs to move people to mainland Greece.”
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Another concerned at the lack of action is Vassilis Kerasiotis, HIAS’ Greece country director.
He said: “The government must take the necessary steps in order to ensure that the thousands of asylum seekers and migrants living in claustrophobically congested RICs are protected.
“They should be relocated to otherwise empty hotels and apartments where they can practice social distancing. In these hard times, no one should be left behind.
“It is not only a moral but also a prudent thing to do, since the fates of asylum seekers as well as those of the locals are inevitably bound together in the face of the pandemic.”
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The IRC confirmed that so far no case of the coronavirus had been found within its refugee centres, but Greece had recently confirmed its infection.
The major concern is how quickly the virus will spread and whether Greece, which has been plagued with financial difficulties for years despite EU bailouts, will be able to control it.
Fotini Kokkinaki with HumanRights360 added: “When the virus hits overcrowded camps in Greece, the consequences will be devastating.
“That will be a nightmare within an existing nightmare since the public health system has collapsed during the previous years of economic depression.
“We must act now before it is too late.”
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