Athens, 8 September 2020:The first COVID-19 case was identified last week in Moria, spiraling concerns about the health and safety of the overcrowded Reception Center’s population. According to media reports,[i] the 40-year old refugee left Lesvos on 17 July, after being requested to exit the Center, and as per his right to move went to Athens. Unable to remain in the city, where refugees are at increased risk of homelessness and destitution, due to the lack of an integration policy, in late August he returned to Moria, so as to reportedly secure some food and shelter.[ii]
The chronic lack of integration measures, coupled with complicated administrative barriers, put many refugees in Greece in the same position. Forced to leave hosting facilities, after receiving a positive asylum decision, many refugees end up homeless, frequently in Athenian squares, and are thus forced to choose to return to places like Moria.
Taking into consideration the press release issued by the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum following the incident,[iii] as well as the deteriorating situation for recognized refugees in Greece, we, the undersigned civil society organisations, once more stress the following concerns about the inhuman treatment of asylum seekers and refugees and the violation of their rights:
The protection of refugees is an absolute necessity for an effective COVID-19 response in Greece. This should include increased protective measures, the evacuation of the population at high risk from overcrowded facilities and their transfer to safe and adequate accommodation.
Yet it needs to be fully understood that the only comprehensive, human-rights-compliant and long-term solution is the implementation of a concrete and sustainable integration policy in Greece, and a genuine responsibility sharing mechanism in the EU that will include a strong commitment to relocation on the basis of intra-EU solidarity.
[i] Kathimerini, “Moria in quarantine after first coronavirus case”, 2 September 2020, https://www.kathimerini.gr/society/1094269/se-karantina-i-moria-meta-to-proto-kroysma-koronoioy/.
[ii] Skai, “Alarm in Moria: First coronavirus case in the facility”, 2 September 2020, https://www.skai.gr/news/greece/synagermos-sti-moria-proto-krousma-koronoiou-sti-domi.
[iii] Ministry of Migration and Asylum, “Positive coronavirus case at Moria RIC – Medical quarantine of the facility”, 2 September 2020, https://migration.gov.gr/thetiko-kroysma-sto-kyt-morias/.
[iv] For instance, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, Greece must urgently transfer asylum seekers from the Aegean islands and improve living conditions in reception facilities, ATHENS 31/10/2019, https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/greece-must-urgently-transfer-asylum-seekers-from-the-aegean-islands-and-improve-living-conditions-in-reception-facilities.
[v] MsF, Greek police enforce unwarranted and cruel quarantine of Moria camp on Lesbos, 3 September 2020, https://www.msf.org/greek-police-enforce-unwarranted-and-cruel-quarantine-moria-camp.
[vi] ECDC, Guidance on infection prevention and control of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in migrant and refugee reception and detention centres in the EU/EEA and the United Kingdom, 15 June 2020, https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/COVID-19-%20guidance-refugee-asylum-seekers-migrants-EU.pdf