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„As the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic hits the European Union, 446 million citizens are encouraged to follow social distancing and individual protection measures. At Europe’s border on the Greek islands (Chios, Kos, Leros, Lesvos, and Samos), however, more than 42,000 children, women and men are contained, and left deprived of such protection measures and basic humanitarian needs (clean water, sanitation, electricity, security, and access to health services) in overcrowded camps set up for 6000 individuals.1 While no cases have yet been confirmed among residents according to Médecins Sans Frontières, the disastrous humanitarian situation could turn camps into epidemic hotspots as the virus hits an ill-nourished, strained population, including children with chronic morbidities, elderly, new-borns and pregnant women. An outbreak could turn into an unmitigated disaster, also affecting residents on the islands, the Greek mainland, and ultimately Europe as a whole.
Now, more than ever, is the time for evacuating Moria and other camps on the Greek islands, where human rights, humanitarian principles, health security and pandemic control measures converge in unprecedented urgency. As public health professionals and scientists concerned with migration, public health, humanitarian aid, and infectious disease control, we call upon the European Commission and the European Emergency Response Coordinator to take urgent action to mobilise all required resources to evacuate Moria and the camps in Chios, Kos, Leros, and Samos. This is a public health imperative.
We suggest a two-tiered action plan: first, build capacities on the Greek mainland, providing decent shelters or provisional housing so that self-isolation and social distancing measures are possible. This is not currently possible on the island camps, especially since the fires on 16 March 2020, which have further reduced Moria’s capacity. Second, relocate camp residents to EU countries from the islands‘ respective airports, especially children, those with special needs, chronic morbidities, and the elderly. On Tuesday (25 March 2020), the EU called for an evacuation of camps and a distribution of refugees elsewhere in Greece.2 However, given that capacities are already stretched locally, we demand a truly European solution in the light of the current situation. Relocation failed previously due to political resistance of member states;3 however given the urgency of the current situation, now there is no alternative to European solidarity. The total number of asylum seekers to be relocated to individual member states is moderate to miniscule given proportional distribution quotas (Fig 1 A).“ weiterlesen