As the Schengen area closed its external borders last week, in a move designed to replace the closing of member states’ national borders against imported Covid-19 infection, some internal barriers still went up in Europe. The day after the European commission’s announcement, the Greek government introduced a set of measures that would apply to the migrant camps in the Greek islands.
As of Wednesday, the camps have been locked down from 7pm to 7am. In the daytime, only one person is allowed out per family, and the police control their movements. Some camps, on the islands of Leros and Kos, have been closed entirely.
Meanwhile, visits to the camps’ reception centres have been temporarily suspended, except for those who work there, and arrivals are being subjected to compulsory fever screening. The measures only apply to the camps, not to the resident population of the islands.
In the five Greek island “hotspots” that are sheltering about 42,000 people, one case of Covid-19 has been recorded. The affected person is a resident of the island of Lesbos. There have been no cases in the camps so far.
In Greece as a whole, 464 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded and six deaths. The government has banned mass gatherings and is urging Greeks to practise social distancing. Thirteen hospitals on the mainland have been turned over to the treatment of Covid-19.
“The imposition of this restriction of movement on the people of the camps and not for anyone else on the islands is unacceptable and discriminatory,” said Apostolos Veizis, director of the medical operational support unit for Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) in Greece. “You are locking children, women and men into severely overcrowded camps where the sanitation and hygiene conditions are horrific.”