When the virus reaches the refugee camps

It is just a matter of time before the coronavirus spreads to the refugee camps. There, crowds cannot be avoided. There is no shop where to buy Antibac – there is hardly enough water.

Foto: Knut Bry

First published 19.03 at Vårt Land

These are challenging times. Each one of us now know what it means when our daily life is turned upside down. Our freedom of movement is restricted. Europe’s borders are closed, but more than that. We cannot travel to our cabins or visit places we’re in danger of socializing with too many people at the same time or straining the health care systems of other municipalities then were we live. Social media fills us with several good ideas on how to make time pass, when trapped in our homes. Maybe alone, maybe with the whole family together, filling hours of the day with work, school, games and activities.

A feeling of uncertainty, but we are safe

We are safe. We know that we have a great health care system working long hours to take care of each one of us, should we be sick. We have a government that is working hard to find the best solutions to reduce the Coronavirus from spreading, and to safeguard those who are severely affected financially when the country now has gone to sleep.

There is a feeling of uncertainty, and it is understandable that many are afraid of what will happen in the future. But can we still be capable of having two thoughts in our mind – at the same time?

Coronavirus in the refugee camps

Although it may feel like the world is standing still, the refugee situation in Greece has not changed. The refugee flow between the Turkish and Greek border has not been resolved. There are still boats coming to the Greek islands, and over 9,000 refugees have arrived in Greece so far in 2020.

The Greek authorities are doing their best to keep the coronavirus away from the crowded camps. Newly arrived refugees are being moved to the mainland, and humanitarian organizations have been banned from continuing their activities inside the camps. Newcomers will be checked for fever and other symptoms of the virus and will be quarantined if they are ill. These measures are being introduced at the same time as Greece is asking the Greek population to stay home. Schools, cafes and restaurants are closed. But, with the experience from a number of countries, it is, in spite of these efforts, a matter of time before the virus spreads, even to the refugee camps.

The virus will hit hard

In the camps, keeping distance is simply impossible. Imagine the situation in Moria camp at Lesvos. People live stacked together. Over 20,000 people in an area estimated for around 3,000. In order to get food, the camp’s residents have to stand in line for hours every day. You also have to queue to go to the toilet. Often for over an hour, and many of the toilets are so engrossed with vomit and feces that it is often better to leave it, find either a bush, a bucket or a diaper.

In the camps, there is nowhere to hide, to stay away from crowds, or to keep a meter distance to your fellow resident. To keep a good hand hygiene is just impossible. There is no shop where you can buy antibacterial gel or hand soap – there is hardly enough water! In addition, many of those living in the camps have a poor health conditions in general with underlying chronic diseases. The health services are virtually non-existent. In the refugee camps the virus will hit hard. Many will be at risk, including children!

Show solidarity with those most vulnerable people

It’s time to act! Considering what most have been through during their escape from war and conflict and the inhumane conditions they now live in, it is extra painful to think about the fear and uncertainty that is now spreading inside the camps. How can someone, under such circumstances, manage to take care of and protect their children? Our thoughts goes especially to the traumatized children, to those who have come alone and have no one looking after them. Although we try to contribute where we can, initially with the support of medical equipment, we feel powerless. It’s time to act! It’s time for Norway to show solidarity with those most vulnerable!

The ability to have more than one thought at a time

Several European countries such as Germany and Finland have promised that they will welcome children and families with children from the Greek refugee camps and especially Moria, but this is not enough. More countries need to take their share, including Norway.
It is time for the government to take responsibility!

When the story of our time is to be written, wouldn’t it be good to know that we as a nation did what we could? We didn’t look the other way but managed to have two thoughts in mind – at the same time. We acted now – rescued children and families from the Moria camp, and we had good, long-term solutions in place for Europe’s challenging refugee situation.

We are cheering on the Government – we know you can do it! All you need is to have more than one thought at a time.