In the refugee camps of Ritsona and Malakasa on mainland Greece, the first cases of coronavirus have occurred. Recently, 148 asylum seekers tested positive for the virus whilst they were quarantined at a hotel in the city of Krandini, which is situated on mainland Greece, south of Athens.
As of today, no resident in the refugee camps on the islands has tested positive for Covid-19. The islands are not prepared to deal with a large number of infected people, and the outcome will be catastrophic, should the virus spread to the refugee camps. The residents of the camp Vial on Chios demonstrated for the lack of protection against the coronavirus, and parts of the camp was light on fire last Saturday.
Currently no cases of Coronavirus in Moria
There are 2.235 confirmed cases of people who have contracted the coronavirus in Greece, and 110 deaths related to the virus (18.04). For now, there have not been any cases in Moria on Lesvos, but the atmosphere is very tense. A 16-year-old boy lost his life after being stabbed by a 20-year-old male, earlier in April. This happened outside Moria camp, and it is one of many stabbings that have occurred this year.
A Drop in the Ocean have continuously shed light on the severity of the situation for refugees and displaced people in Greece, with an emphasis on the situation in Moria. The situation has been brought to attention to politicians and through Norwegian media agencies (Agenda Magasin, Vårt Land, NRK, and TV2). We are deeply concerned for the development of the situation if nothing is done. The necessary precautions regarding the coronavirus are impossible to maintain in a refugee camp, where the sanitary conditions are non-existent, there is not enough soap and water, and social distancing is impossible when more than 20.000 people live in a camp built for 3.000.
A Drop in the Ocean continues with some activities
A small team from A Drop in the Ocean has remained in Greece. They keep in touch with the camp management and the Greek authorities on the locations we work, to assess the needs of the refugees and how to best help them. As of now, we are not sending international field workers to the locations and we have temporarily stopped our usual activities, as part of the infection control measures. Our coordinators and resident volunteers help where they can, and distribute food, arrange online language classes, and have bought surgical face masks.
Greece moving elderly people to the mainland – Europe must step up
The migration ministry stated on Thursday 16 April that they will transfer 2.300 elderly and vulnerable people from the islands to the mainland in the coming weeks. Simultaneously, several European nations stated that they were willing to relocate refugees. On March 6, the European Commission encouraged member states to retrieve unaccompanied minors from Greece. Thus far, ten member states have confirmed that they are willing to relocate unaccompanied minors: Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg, and Lithuania. Luxembourg received 12 unaccompanied minors last week, and Germany received 47. Germany has stated that they will take on 350 to 500 unaccompanied minors in total.
With 1.200 unaccompanied minors in Moria, and more than 6.000 in Greece, this is merely a dent. We need more states to step up – Norway included!
Norwegian parliamentary parties must act now
The civic commitment to evacuate the children from Moria has been massive in Norway. Digital protests and campaigns on Instagram have united people to this cause, and more than 40.000 signatures was handed to the government on April 6. Still, the politicians are unable to agree on a solution. Several local parties and municipalities such as Trondheim, Bergen, and Stavanger have shown their support to the cause and are demanding that the Norwegian government must accept their responsibility to receive unaccompanied minors from Greece. This demand is supported by a number of former ministers and the Church of Norway.
The Social Left Party has made a proposition that Norway should accept 1.500 unaccompanied minors. The Red Party and the Green Party have brought the matter to attention in the Storting’s (the Norwegian Parliament) Question Time. The Labour Party agreed, after internal disagreements, to increase the number of quota refugees with 500 and include vulnerable refugees from Moria in this quota through conversations with the UN. The proposition is criticised as the transfer of quota refugees has been put on hold due to the Corona pandemic. Additionally, the national board of the Christian Democratic Party are demanding that Norway contribute to retrieve unaccompanied minors from Moria, and people in the Liberal Party demand that the government must act immediately. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security stated in Aftenposten, Norway’s largest printed newspaper by circulation, on April 12 that it is currently not feasible to respond to request of relocation of refugees from Greece at this moment.
We are waiting with anticipation on how the Prime Minister, Erna, and the government will act. Will they help realise a European allocation of responsibilities, and retrieve the children from the inhumane and intolerable living conditions in time – before the coronavirus reaches Moria?
The politicians must be able to find both sort-term and long-term solutions. Evacuate the children now!
The European Commission
Norwegian news: VG, NRK, Aftenposten, Vårt Land og Klassekampen