Greece to empty overcrowded migrant camps to prevent Covid-19 spread

Greece is at risk of coronavirus deaths spiking due to migrant camps where 42,000 people are packed into facilities designed for 6,000, making social distancing impossible

  •  Greek camps hold 42,000 migrants in facilities built for just 6,000 people
  •  Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar warns EU take ‘immediate action’ to avoid spread
  •  French police begin moving migrants from the Aubervilliers camp today 
  •  Italy seizes nearly 2,000 respirators intended for hospital patients in Greece
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Greece’s overcrowded migrant camps should be evacuated because social distancing is near impossible and therefore poses a deadly risk, it has been warned.

The head of the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee, Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, warned the 42,000 migrants packed into facilities built for 6,000 people could risk ‘many deaths’. 

In a letter addressed to the EU’s commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, Aguilar urged ‘immediate action’ to avoid rapid spread of Covid-19. 

The civil liberties committee also demanded from the EU a coordinated health plan for asylum-seekers from member states – and additional funding for hospitals.

A migrant in Lesbos dragging a cart of supplies across a rickety bridge with children in tow

Aguilar is a Spanish politician who has sat on the European Parliament since 2009.

Greece has so far detected no infections among the inhabitants of its migrant camps.  

Greece currently has migrant camps on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos. 

The country has registered 695 cases of Covid-19 and 17 deaths related to the virus to date.

A child migrant stands in her family's shelter in Lesbos surrounded by rusted and discarded objects

A child migrant stands in her family’s shelter in Lesbos surrounded by rusted and discarded objects

‘One of the main issues to be addressed to avoid the quick and wide spread of COVID-19 on the Greek islands is the urgent preventive evacuation of the overcrowded camps,’ said Aguilar. 

‘If the EU fails to take immediate action, the situation on the Greek islands will become unmanageable with the risk of many deaths,’ he added.

Aguilar’s warning comes as the French government’s top official for Paris announced a similar evacuation plan in the region last week.

French police began moving ‘several hundred’ migrants from the Aubervilliers camp just north of Paris this morning. 

Police officers in Greece in face masks escorting migrants and refugees arriving on the shores

Police officers in Greece in face masks escorting migrants and refugees arriving on the shores

French officials said the camp’s occupants, believed to be up to 600 people, would be moved to limit Covid-19 potentially spreading to homeless people in the capital. 

They added the migrants would be transported by buses to gyms and hotels in Paris, as well as to a nearby suburb.

Migrants will receive medical check-ups to determine if any show Covid-19 symptoms, according to French officials. 

Prefect Michel Cadot said that some 500 beds were also being made available to Paris’ homeless.

The France Terre d’Asile aid group said the Aubervilliers camp was one of dozens which sprang up around the capital since the migrant crisis began in 2015.

The new measures are part of a nationwide attempt in France to curtail the Covid-19 outbreak from spreading. 

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has ordered people to stay at home to reduce the pressure currently exerted on hospitals.  

Italy seizes respirators bound for Greece amid Covid-19 pandemic

Italian authorities have seized nearly 2,000 respirators intended for hospital patients in Greece being treated for coronavirus.

The 1,840 units were seized from a truck that was about to set off on a ferry. 

Respirator exports were banned in Italy on 25 February 2020.

The units comprise the valve that pumps oxygen, as well as the mask and various tubes.

Italian police and customs officials said the equipment was suitable for both adults and children.  

Italy’s death toll topped 6,000 on Monday.