In the Greek refugee camps, the fear of corona is at stake

Specialists warn: A time bomb is ticking in the camps. Because now the corona epidemic is evoking new dangers. In two refugee camps north of Athens, 28 residents have already tested positive. The camps are now under quarantine.

There are still no known cases of infection in the island camps, but the fear of the virus is widespread in the camps. Many residents wear masks. The recommendation to keep away sounds like a mockery to the people who are crammed together in the accommodations in a confined space.

Even washing your hands is a problem: “In some parts of the Moria camp, 1,300 people have to share access to water at a tap, and there is no soap,” reports the aid organization Doctors Without Borders.

Experts fear that it will only be a matter of time before the epidemic spreads to the island camps. Florian Westphal, Managing Director of Doctors Without Borders in Germany, says there are about 600 particularly vulnerable camp residents in Lesbos and Samos alone: ​​older people and those with previous illnesses, but also sick children. The aid organization demands: “We need an emergency evacuation of all refugees from the Covid 19 high-risk group before the virus reaches the camps.”

Around 100,000 migrants currently live in Greece. They have been stuck there since the Balkans closed their borders in February 2015. Nobody knows exactly the number of children and young people traveling alone who have been stranded in Greece. It is estimated to be more than 5,100, of which around 500 are under the age of 14. Some set off alone as orphans, others lost their parents and siblings in the confusion of flight.

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According to a survey by the National Center for Social Solidarity (Ekka), which is subordinate to the Greek Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, only 1836 unaccompanied minors are cared for in suitable accommodation on the mainland. The others live in camps or are completely on their own.

The age-appropriate accommodation and care of unaccompanied minors is expensive and personnel-intensive. “You have to put them in small groups of no more than 25 children,” explains Giorgos Protopapas, director of SOS Children’s Villages in Greece.

The international organization has decades of experience in dealing with orphans and children from broken families. “Many of these children and adolescents are deeply traumatized. Psychologists, doctors, educators and interpreters are needed around the clock to look after them,” Protopapas explains.

800 unaccompanied children live on the streets

The head of the SOS Children’s Villages estimates that around 800 unaccompanied children and adolescents in Greece “live on the street” and try to make ends meet, often with prostitution and drug trafficking.

Gavriil Sakellaridis, Greece director of Amnesty International, cites an even higher number: “Around 1200 unaccompanied migrants under the age of 18 have simply disappeared from the focus of the authorities and are very likely to be exposed to serious risks without protection,” says Sakellaridis.

Almost 1,700 minors live without relatives in the five camps on the East Aegean islands. Above all, it is about the relocations that are starting now. The conditions in the five hot spots on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Kos, Chios and Leros are catastrophic.

Moria refugee camp in Lesbos

There are still no known cases of infection in the island camps like here in Moria on Lesbos, but the fear of the virus is widespread in the camps.


(Photo: dpa)

The accommodations are designed for less than 8000 people. In fact, 39,429 migrants are penned up there, according to official statistics from mid-week. Because there is no more space in the living containers, an estimated 30,000 people, including many families with young children, live in camping tents or crates that they have made of slats, cardboard and plastic sheeting themselves.

The worst is the situation on Samos, where the Vathy camp with 6932 inhabitants is more than tenfold overcrowded. For example, 22 underage girls live here in a residential container that is only intended for five people.

Not enough couches for the camp residents

Because there are not enough beds, the girls have to try to sleep alternately. On the notorious Camp Moria on the island of Lesbos, 18 804 people live in accommodations that are designed for 2757 people.

Moria has made headlines as “Shame on Europe”. Residents speak of the camp as “hell”. The aid organization Human Rights Watch has documented the fate of young people in Moria. “Everything is dangerous here: the cold, the tent in which I sleep, the fights – I don’t feel safe,” says 14-year-old Afghan Rachid.

The 15-year-old Ali says that when he arrived in Moria he was given a sleeping bag and told him: “Find a place to sleep outside.” The same happened to the 16-year-old Samir: “You gave me a blanket, a used T -Shirt and a small mat and told me to look for a place outside. “The frustration of the young people is increasingly escalating into aggression: On Wednesday a 20-year-old Afghan stabbed a 16-year-old boy in an argument in Moria.

He was shocked when he visited Camp Moria, reports Christos Christou, president of the aid organization Doctors Without Borders. A third of the camp residents are under the age of 18. “These children and young people have lost their appetite for life, they don’t speak, they don’t play.”

The situation in Moria is “comparable to what we see after natural disasters or in war zones”. It is outrageous to see these conditions in Europe and to know that they “are not the result of a disaster, but the result of targeted political decisions,” says Christou.

The Greek government is trying to relieve the overcrowded island camps. Around 11,000 people have been relocated from the islands to the mainland since the beginning of the year. But most of the accommodations there are now too busy.

Greece has been demanding for years that the other EU countries take over part of the asylum procedures. The EU has been discussing a reform of the European asylum system since 2015. The aim is to relieve the countries of first arrival and to distribute the asylum procedures to all member states. But the reform is still a long time coming, mainly because some Eastern European countries refuse to accept refugees at all.

More: The admission of refugee children is a question of decency: after Germany, other EU countries should also get their way.

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The Corona time bomb is ticking in the Greek migrant camps

Athens The northeast wind drove dark clouds on Friday from the Turkish coast over the island of Lesbos. Showers fell. As always, when it rains, the trails in the Moria refugee camp turned into mud deserts. The water flushes the garbage down into the valley, seeps into the tents, soaks blankets and mattresses. “We have to act before it is too late,” says Fotini Kokkinaki from the aid organization “HumanRights360”.

For years, helpers have drawn attention to the terrible conditions in which tens of thousands of people have to live in the migrant camps on the Greek Aegean Islands. Doctors kept warning about the risk of epidemics. The fear of the corona virus is now widespread in the camps. “If the virus arrives in the crowded camps, the consequences will be devastating,” Kokkinaki warns.
Curfews, closed schools, shops and restaurants: For weeks the Greek government has been fighting against the spread of the corona virus with new bans. However, the authorities initially paid little attention to the situation in the overcrowded migrant camps. The contagion drive there is particularly great because of the large spatial confinement in which people live.

So far, according to the government’s official statement in Athens, there are no known cases of infection in the migrant camps on the islands. But that says little, because there are no systematic tests at all.

The temperature is only measured for newcomers. According to official information from the end of this week, 40 703 residents live in the five so-called hotspots, the initial reception centers on the Aegean islands of Samos, Lesbos, Leros, Chios and Kos – crammed into camps that are designed to accommodate 8896 people.

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19 283 migrants live in the notorious Moria camp on Lesvos, with space for 2757 residents. Because the official warehouse built from residential containers has been overcrowded for years, an estimated 15,000 people, including many families with children, live in the adjacent olive groves. They pitched camping tents there or made slats, cardboard and plastic tarpaulins.

Experts fear that the virus has long been rampant in Moria and the other camps, even if it has not yet been detected. The Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum is trying to ban the impending danger with a twelve-point plan.

Visits to the camps

This includes bans on visits to the camps. They also apply to employees of non-governmental organizations that used to play an important role in the care of people. The freedom of movement of the camp residents is also restricted.

So far, they could move freely on the islands. Now they are only allowed to leave the camps in small groups for shopping between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., but only one person per family.

Sports events and school lessons in the camps are discontinued. The sanitary facilities and common areas should be disinfected regularly. It is also planned to set up isolation stations. But it is difficult to imagine how this should be implemented in the chaotic camps.

With multilingual leaflets and loudspeaker announcements, the camp residents are informed about the precautions they can take to reduce the risk of infection. But the recommendation to keep your distance and avoid crowds of people must sound like a mockery to the camp residents.

You cannot avoid each other. Camp Vathy on Samos was built for 648 residents, but currently houses 7264 people. There are 816 places in the camp on Kos, but 2969 residents. The camp on Chios is five times overcrowded with 5363 residents.

Experts warn of uncontrollable conditions if the virus spreads in the camps. “Given the circumstances, it would be impossible to control the outbreak of the epidemic in the hotspots – thousands of lives would be in danger,” says Antigone Lyberaki of the aid organization Solidarity Now. “There is a time window to deal with the situation, but this window closes quickly.”

Government refuses to close camps

The human rights organization Human Rights Watch appealed to the government this week to immediately evacuate the island camps. The EU Commission asked Greece to take at least particularly vulnerable people, such as the elderly, the sick and families with children, from the overcrowded camps and to place them elsewhere on the islands.

The aid organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which tries to provide at least minimal medical care, especially for children, in the camps on Chios, Samos and Lesbos, demands a complete eviction: “The horrific living conditions are in the crowded hotspots on the islands an ideal breeding ground for Covid-19, ”says the MSF call.

The government has so far refused to close the camps and move migrants to the mainland. The reason: The virus is already rampant on the mainland. On the other hand, migrants are safer on the islands, as there have been almost no proven infections there, except for two cases on Lesbos, outside the camp.

Another reason why the government is hesitant to evacuate: Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis faces a problem that can hardly be solved. He doesn’t know what to do with the more than 40,000 migrants on the islands.

Because the 28 migrant camps on the mainland have long been overcrowded. The planned construction of new warehouses mostly meets with strong resistance from the population and local politicians in the affected communities.

Refugees Greece

Refugee women from the Moria migrant camp in Greece sew respirators.

(Photo: AFP)

There have also been local protests in the past against the accommodation of migrants in hotels and pensions that are now empty. The fear of the epidemic is likely to further fuel the resentment against migrants that is felt in many places.

The government in Athens has been calling for redistribution of asylum seekers to other EU countries for years – to no avail. In view of the corona epidemic, there is probably even less to think about than now.

After all, there is a small ray of hope: the reluctant transfer of 1,600 unaccompanied minors from the camps for weeks could finally get going, despite Corona. EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson hopes the move can begin next week.

Seven EU countries have agreed to accept the minors, including Germany. A total of around 5500 unaccompanied migrants under the age of 18 live in Greece. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, around 2,000 of these are on the islands.

Regardless of the corona crisis, the federal government is in favor of quickly receiving minors from the refugee camps on the Greek islands. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer stand by his promise, said ministry spokesman Steve Alter on Friday in Berlin.

Looking at the organization of the EU Commission, he said: “According to our knowledge, there is movement in there.” He could not say exactly when it will happen, but “we also see progress”.

Whether Germany will eventually accept 250 or 400 minors is still as unanswered as the question of when they will leave Greece. “The Federal Government is in intensive exchange with the European partners to ensure prompt takeovers from the Greek islands,” said the Interior Ministry.

More: Greeks flee to the islands for fear of the virus: More and more Greeks are taking refuge on one of the islands. But the townspeople are not welcome there.

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How the corona crisis led to even more surveillance in China

Beijing The 27-year-old Liu, who only wants to be mentioned in the newspaper by his last name, looks up from his smartphone. In the distance he sees the bus he is waiting for. He is supposed to take him to his job at an internet company in the east Chinese city of Hangzhou.

Liu lowers his eyes again, taps the Alipay payment service app on his smartphone and activates the “Hangzhou Health Code” mini software. He makes sure that the service is running. Then he joins a long line. Anyone who wants to ride on the bus must show the driver their personal code. Green means no problem, while yellow and red indicate that the person is not allowed to ride. Liu shows the driver his prepared code. He is green. Liu can get in.

Hangzhou was one of the first cities to use the new program called “Health Code”. In order to use the service, users have to enter their health status in addition to their name, identification number and home address and inform them of where they have been in the past two weeks. The software also accesses users’ location data.

The program, the code, has become a de facto obligation for Chinese citizens. Depending on the city, it serves as an admission ticket for restaurants, local transport and supermarkets. Many employers oblige their employees to activate the service and show the code before entering the office or workshop. According to Fintech Ant Financial, which Alipay belongs to, around 200 cities in China are now using the software.

China is currently trying to do the balancing act: On the one hand, the government wants to further contain the now significantly lower number of newly infected people. On the other hand, companies are supposed to resume their work – and return to everyday life in the second largest economy in the world, hard hit by the corona virus. The health codes are intended to help. However, critics fear that the government will take advantage of the situation to further increase surveillance of Chinese citizens.

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The code and other tools used to collect data have become an integral part of the daily lives of millions of Chinese. For Liu too. Before he gets to his work place, a security guard checks his body temperature at the entrance to the office building. Then Liu shows him the paper ID that his company has given him. Finally, he holds up his green code to the security guard. The supermarket where he shops, the restaurant where he eats lunch, and the security guards at the entrance to his housing estate also want to see the code.

“Most people have adapted to the new standard,” observes Liu. Some, mostly older people would sometimes not show their code when getting on the bus. The driver then reminds them to show it or to apply in case of doubt.

Most cities in China use software based on the health code system developed in Hangzhou. The service can usually be used in at least three ways: through the Alipay payment service app, the WeChat messenger service, the Ding Talk communication platform or the city government’s own website.

Other cities, such as China’s capital Beijing or the east Chinese metropolis of Shanghai, have developed their own systems. Most cities do not accept the code from another city. However, there are plans to make the systems compatible with one another.

In an interview with the Handelsblatt, Ant Financial distances itself from the service. It was developed solely by the government. Alipay “only provided technical support”, for example by making the service accessible via the Alipay platform.

The system is solely offered and controlled by the government, Alipay has no access to the data that is collected, the company emphasizes. The express distancing has a reason: Alipay wants to grow in Europe, negative headlines in connection with data protection would damage the image of the app.

It is unclear exactly which data the code services collect and where the information is passed on. To be able to use the service, the user must agree that his location data is determined and passed on to the local authority for epidemic prevention and control. This state agency knows at all times where the user of the service is and who he is meeting. The option to leave your smartphone at home to avoid tracking no longer exists – the code is now necessary for everyday life.

The responsible authorities in Hangzhou City declined to answer a questionnaire from the Handelsblatt. One question was where, in addition to the local epidemic prevention and control authorities, users’ data would be forwarded. An investigation by the New York Times in early March suggested that the location data was also shared with the police.

Work on state data pool

Mareike Ohlberg from the China think tank Merics in Berlin believes that the apps are not a new escalation level in the surveillance of citizens in China primarily because of the type of data collected. The opportunities to track a person’s location had previously existed.

However, she sees another danger: “Programs such as the health code apps, to which several government agencies have access, are increasing the trend in China to collect data more systematically and to make it available to all government institutions,” says Ohlberg. So far there is no one central location where all the data is located that everyone can access. “However, the Chinese government is working on this, and tracking tools such as the health code programs can help to further develop the system in this direction.”

Public debates about data protection are very rare in China. Even in the case of the health codes, there is hardly any visible criticism. This does not mean that protecting Chinese citizens’ privacy is unimportant per se. For example, a well-known professor from Beijing University in a blog entry in early March referred to the issue of data protection during the pandemic.

However, Liu is one of many Chinese who have no privacy concerns. He sees it as an advantage that the code system tracks the movements of the citizens. “The combination with our own health information currently makes it the most effective way to control the epidemic,” he says.

Xu Yiao, a Shanghai business consultant, also has no concerns about his data. He estimates that he uses Suishenma, the Shanghai version of the health code, about four times a day. He has to show the code, which also shows green for him, when entering the subway and at his work place.

Xu accesses the service via the WeChat messenger app. To do this, he has to scan his face every week with facial recognition software. “I don’t know who developed the program and where my data is stored,” he says. He found “Suishenma” comfortable and easy.

Human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch criticize the amount of data collection as disproportionate. They fear that situations such as the corona crisis could be used to further expand such data collections. “The reason for the data collection gives this form of surveillance a new legitimacy, because it serves a higher goal: health,” explains Merics expert Ohlberg. “The danger is that the detailed surveillance of Chinese citizens will continue to be normalized in this way, not only within China, but also vis-à-vis abroad.”

In fact, local governments have already expressed the following: “In the future, further data and application services will gradually be introduced in order to become personal identification and service assistants for the Shanghai”, says a response from the public relations office of the Shanghai city administration to one Citizen request for the “Suishenma” program in early March

The Hangzhou City Committee’s public relations department declined to comment on Handelsblatt’s request for the system to be maintained after the crisis. Upon request, a central information center in the city of Beijing said that there was as yet no information that the code programs would continue to be used after the pandemic. The decision is still pending.

Human rights organizations cite past experiences, according to which there has often been no turning back from a level of surveillance once it has been established. In China during the Olympic Games in 2008, surveillance of public spaces by video cameras was significantly strengthened. When the major event ended, the level of surveillance remained. China is currently the country with the most surveillance cameras.

System seems prone to errors

It is estimated that between 200 million and 626 million cameras are in use. According to a Comparitech survey, there are 168 surveillance cameras per 1000 inhabitants in the metropolis of Chongching, 114 cameras in Shanghai and 40 cameras in Beijing. For comparison: there are eleven in Berlin and three in Paris.

In addition to the enormous amount of data that the code service collects, there is another topic: The determination of the code seems to be prone to errors. For example, users report that their code turned red and they had to be quarantined because they were said to be in contact with people who had the virus. But that was not the case.

Wang Hao from Beijing, who does not want to read his real name in the newspaper because he fears negative consequences at his workplace at a state-owned company, reports in a conversation about problems with “Jingxinxiangzhu” (read: Dschingchinchiangdschu), the Beijing version of Health Code service.

In late February, Wang took the train back to Beijing from his home in northern China. A train attendant instructed him to register with “Jingxinxiangzhu”. After registering with his name, home address and ID number and providing information about his state of health, he continued to his apartment in central Beijing and started his 14-day quarantine.

Then came the day when the two weeks were over. Wang was looking forward to doing sports in a nearby park again. But when he checked “Jingxinxiangzhu” in the morning, his code was not green but yellow, which means that he should remain in quarantine.

Wang was irritated. He wrote in the neighborhood chat room of his apartment building and asked for help. When no one answered, he cleared his anger on the Weibo social network. “I was probably disappointed that I still wasn’t allowed to leave the apartment after two weeks,” said Wang. Two hours later, his code was green. He was not told why he was changed.

More: Face recognition is not only used in China. The new technology is also spreading in the USA and Europe.

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Transparency in the fashion industry triples since 2016 | Style

Fashion is gradually learning about human rights. The second most polluting industry on the planet is also one of the most difficult to publicize its supply chain. Excessive consumption is one of its big problems, something that has sponsored the boom of fast fashion. The April 2013 disaster of the Rana Plaza, a textile manufacturing complex on the outskirts of Bangladesh that collapsed and killed 1,130 people, mostly workers, was the painful shock that woke up the industry.

Now, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has published a report that includes the analysis it has carried out on the behavior of the textile industry during the last three years. And it is positive. Both clothing and footwear brands and retailers, they say, have increased transparency, disclosure of information, and have done so dramatically. So collect it a report called The new fashion trend: accelerating supply chain transparency in the apparel and footwear industry

In 2016 HRW created the so-called Transparency Commitment, by which it demanded a standard of total transparency, from start to finish, in the textile supply chain. A voluntary action by companies that helps to know how and where products are manufactured, the conditions in which employees are … “so that activists, workers and consumers can find out where a brand’s products are manufactured,” as this statement explains. There are already 39 large companies that have joined this Commitment. According to the association, “22 of them are among the 72 companies with which the coalition began to collaborate in 2016.” In total, they contacted 74 companies and of them “31 did not fulfill the standard commitment and 21 were not willing to publicly disclose relevant information.”

Among those 22 companies ” fully aligned or committed “to doing it with the issue of transparency, names such as H&M, Asos, Nike, Benetton, C&A, Esprit, New Balance, G-Star Raw, Clarks or Asics stand out. In the group of 31 that have committed “to publish or published at least the names and addresses of their supplier factories, but they still did not meet the standard of commitment “are Amazon, Disney, Lidl, Hugo Boss, Under Armor, Zalando, Columbia or Gap. Also, there are a handful of companies, 18 in total, which at the moment “They have not publicly disclosed information about their supply chain. “Inditex, Mango, Carrefour, Armani, Decathlon, Ralph Lauren, Forever 21 or Foot Locker stand out.

“Transparency is not a remedy for labor rights abuses, but it is essential for a company that describes itself as ethical and sustainable,” said the senior legal adviser for the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch, Aruna Kashyap. “All brands should adopt transparency in their supply chains, but ultimately laws are required that require this transparency and make the implementation of fundamental human rights practices mandatory.”

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