COVID-19 DOESN’T RECOGNISE BORDERS
Neither should we.
A time for collective humanity - Leave no one behind
There are 20,000 asylum seekers in Lesvos, and counting. Moria camp, the most inhumane refugee settlement in Europe, was ‘designed’ to temporarily shelter 2300 people.
Moria relies solely on NGOs with short-term funding streams to provide essential services such as the provision of blankets and tents, medical care, education, psycho-social support and legal aid services. When funding gaps arise, NGOs are forced to pause service provision, or close their doors completely. This happens regularly.
On 27th February 2020 President Erdogan opened the Eastern border to Greece, announcing he would no longer stop Turkey’s 3.7million refugees from crossing into Europe.
Greece first responded with a wall of violence – tear gassing and pushing back asylum seekers. Then with an administrative wall – announcing it would not accept or process any more claims for asylum despite its obligations under the Refugee Convention. Now, migrants are met with a legislative wall as Greece closes down the Greek Asylum Service in an anti-COVID measure, along with closing down all institutions providing education or psycho-social support and restricting the movement of refugees outside the camp.
If anything, COVID should remind us of our shared humanity. In order to fight COVID, no one can be left behind or the virus will continue to rage. COVID does not recognise borders. The only real border is the one between humanity and the virus. If we leave anyone behind, leave anyone untreated, leave anyone in public spaces with asymptomatic spread, we allow COVID to spread. We fail humanity.
The WHO guidelines on managing the pandemic urge everyone globally to (i) maintain social distancing (ii) wash hands frequently and to (iii) seek medical care early.
(i) Maintain Social Distancing
No asylum seeker in Moria has the privilege of social distancing. At-risk groups have no ability to self-isolate. Migrants are placed either in one large arrivals tent with no separating wall, partition or blanket, in tents pitched next to or on top of the other, or in containers housing at least 20 people each. Several asylum seekers, largely unaccompanied boys, simply sleep rough. Globally, public gatherings are being cancelled, but in Moria asylum seekers have no choice but to live in close proximity and in squalid conditions. Queues for food or the use of the toilets are hours-long and fraught. MSF has declared that these conditions make asylum seekers in Moria more vulnerable to COVID-19.
(ii) Frequently washing Hands with Soap
Few asylum seekers have the luxury of washing their hands as per the WHO guidelines. In some parts of the camp there is just one tap for every 1300 people. In other zones, there are no facilities whatsoever. Several taps are defunct. There are queues to access the taps that do work. Soap is not provided at the taps. There are small ad hoc donations of soap by NGOs or money has to be found to purchase soap.
(iii) Early access to medical care
In practice, asylum seekers only have access to NGO medical facilities in the camp. There is no COVID medical testing equipment. There is no A&E or ICU facility in Moria. There is no respiratory equipment to cure patients suffering from COVID-19 in Moria. There is no public government plan to respond if (when) COVID-19 hits Moria. The government’s only instructions are that people should remain in their tents if they have some of the COVID-19 symptoms. Tents will not be able to adequately contain viral spread. There are some leaflets in the camp calling asylum seekers to seek medical help if they display severe symptoms. These leaflets provide the number of a Government emergency phone number. This line is manned in Greek with no interpreters available for the languages spoken in the camp.
ASYLUM SEEKERS IN MORIA CANNOT FOLLOW THE WHO GUIDELINES.
THESE FUNDAMENTAL GLOBAL GUIDELINES ARE A LUXURY MORIA IS EXCLUDED FROM
There are now three recorded cases of COVID-19 on Lesvos island. Once the virus hits the camp, it will be unstoppable. Many will die an avoidable death.
YOU CAN HELP PREVENT THIS. Be a first responder to this global pandemic.
Your donations will:
- Support some of the few NGOs that are still active inside Moria Camp
- Help medical teams prepare for an emergency COVID-19 response
- Decrease asymptomatic spread by purchasing masks, soap and other crucial resources
- Ensure migrants’ legal rights are protected during this pandemic and that emergency regulations are not mis-used to justify unlawful restrictions or violence