They stayed in the overcrowded camps on the Greek islands for weeks, now 47 minors have arrived in Germany. Interior Minister Seehofer called on other EU countries to show solidarity.
The first 47 children and adolescents from several refugee camps on the Greek islands have arrived in Germany. As the Federal Ministry of the Interior announced in Berlin, the machine landed in the morning Hanover. The unaccompanied minors are now due to the Corona crisis initially be accommodated for a two-week quarantine in Lower Saxony.
Previously had federal interior ministers Horst Seehofer called on the other European countries to also accept unaccompanied minor refugees. “Germany keeps its word and shows solidarity,” said Seehofer of the “Bild am Sonntag”. “I expect our European partners to start implementing their commitments as soon as possible,” added the minister.
More children are to follow
The children come from the camps on the islands of Samos, Chios and Lesbos. The transfer was organized by the EU, the UN refugee agency UNHCR and the governments in Athens and Berlin, as the Ministry of Migration announced in Athens. 58 minors were supposed to come to Germany on Saturday, but for medical reasons their departure from Greece was delayed. But you should travel soon. A total of 1,600 unaccompanied minor refugees from Greece are to be brought to other EU countries in the coming weeks.
“Greece needs our support: to protect the EU’s external border, to improve the situation in local refugee camps and to protect the weakest,” said Seehofer. In the migration policy, order and humanity belonged together, according to the CSU politician.
It is undeniable that the biological impact of great plagues It does not distinguish between rich and poor, but it is no less true that there were always classes and that this was not going to stop happening in times of coronavirus. According to oenegés, more than 168 million people were already in a extreme risk situation before the irruption of this health crisis, which has exponentially multiplied the fragility of its existence. Not even such an exceptional scenario serves as a mitigating factor for “millions of homeless people to get shelter or to postpone the bombings & rdquor; which are still the daily reality in the hottest areas of the city, as María Jesús Vega, spokesperson in Spain for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
It happens in Central America, where “violence and threats from maras continue to push entire families across borders & rdquor ;, and in Idlib, northwest Syria, “where there are almost a million people caught in the crossfire without regular access to humanitarian aid & rdquor ;, Vega stresses. The consequences are so devastating that they begin to suffer countries that have not even registered infections, how South Sudan, helplessly attending the border closure, the cancellation of flights and the departure of health personnel, preventing Paula San Pedro, head of Advocacy and content on climate change at Oxfam Intermón, from among the help required. Countries so mired in misery, orphaned by their own institutional responses, their main concern continues to be “surviving many other challenges such as war, unemployment or the onslaught of climate change & rdquor ;, stands out.
The plague adds to a vulnerability chain too extensive. And when the war has left the half of the hospitals in ruins and “80% of the population depends on aid from aid workers,” as in Yemen, or there is hardly two respirators for the 12 million Sudanese, the potential arrival of the virus “can be devastating & rdquor ;, anticipates San Pedro. Among the areas marked in red on the map, Vega highlights the inhumane conditions in the Greek refugee camps; the instability that radiates the Syria crisis; the “almost million Rohingya refugees and stateless people & rdquor; suffering from the brutal monsoon scourge in Bangladesh, the situation in Latin American countries such as Colombia, and the 4.8 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants forced to flee from the instability of your country. Also Mali, Burkina Fasso and Sudan, as well as Ethiopia and Uganda “that host almost a million refugees in their territories with very few resources & rdquor ;.
Above territories, there are three essential factors to distinguish the most vulnerable groups against Covid-19: “Those who suffer overcrowding, a fragile sanitary system and lack of access to soap and water & rdquor ;, exposes San Pedro. A more generalized situation on the planet than it might seem. “They recommend us wash our hands constantly, but how can the refugees to whom we can only supply 15 liters of water to drink, cook, clean and everything? & rdquor ;, affects Vega. To all this we must add “the precarious health of children, pregnant women, the elderly and refugees with disabilities who have survived the hardships of war, no vaccines, medicines, malnourished & rdquor ;, highlights the UNHCR spokesperson, to advance that the still incipient outbreak of the virus in these environments can have “dramatic consequences & rdquor ;.
Devastating effects in the field of health, in the first instance, but which will reach many other dimensions. Like most of 25 million jobs to be lost, according to the estimate of the International Labor Organization when the crisis has not yet reached its zenith. Hence, UNHCR calls on states to “allow access security to the most vulnerable people and apply for asylum, regardless of the application of all necessary health protocols and quarantines & rdquor ;. Vega also appeals to an international solidarity network and to a greater involvement of the most developed countries, remembering that “the 85% of refugees are hosted in highly disadvantaged or developing countries& rdquor ;.
Children without shelter
Even inside misery and despair It is worth distinguishing a group that deserves special attention: children. The Unesco estimates that the massive closure of educational centers Because of the pandemic, it already affects more than 1,524 million minors, 87% of the total registered, and is an insurmountable difficulty for the many households that do not have the necessary technological means to keep training in ‘online’ format. The contingency also encompasses other challenges no less important than the academic one. “School is a healthy and safe space for millions of children and the feeding they get there is the main livelihood for many & rdquor ;, reveals Mary Guin Delaney, UNESCO Regional Advisor in Latin America and the Caribbean.
His present worries and his future alarms if his distance from the desks is perpetuated. & rdquor; Stress, overcrowding and hunger they bring dangers like domestic violence and deterioration in physical and mental health & rdquor ;, Guin Delaney stresses. The order of priorities is altered, insecurity and precariousness are increasing, and not a few minors who already live on the existential wire can be definitively dragged into a life away from classrooms, subjected to labor exploitation and to a future where your dreams dissipate, who knows if forever.
Not much better is the situation for millions of women, “Doubly beaten & rdquor; In each humanitarian crisis, the representative of Oxfam denounces, recalling that in these situations “the macho patterns are accentuated with dire consequences for victims of domestic violence & rdquor ;. Without forgetting that “more than 70% of health personnel are women” who are currently at the forefront of the emergency response, with the aggravating circumstance in many cases of not being able to afford to neglect their housework.
Folder to austerity
Given the titanic challenge that is presented, Oxfam Intermón appeals to the international community to shelving austerity measures that they would leave “millions of ppeople trapped in poverty & rdquor ;, while advocating a new “Green pact that puts the most vulnerable at the center of the initiatives of a sustainable growth & rdquor ;. Impulses that should be financed with taxes on large companies, removing the tax havens and increasing international cooperation so as not to “leave anyone behind”, stresses San Pedro.
Understand, also, that this crisis should become a turning point, that of admitting the mistake of feeling “invulnerable & rdquor ;, Vega maintains. “In a globalized world —adds the UNHCR spokesperson in Spain–, the well-being of all, regardless of race, immigration status, or creed, is our own well-being. “
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.
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.
Refugee women from the Moria migrant camp in Greece sew respirators.
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.