Police guarding the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos. Credit: lesvosnews.gr
Police guarding the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos. Credit: lesvosnews.gr

Greek police stationed at the Lesvos facility are undergoing blood tests after two officers caught the disease.

Greek police stationed at the controversial Moria refugee camp on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos have been ordered to take blood tests after it was revealed that two officers had contracted tuberculosis. 

Police said that the victims were hospitalized with a high fever for about five days after testing positive for the infectious disease. Both officers are said to be no longer contagious and will undergo six months of medical treatment. 

An anonymous email denounces the conditions at the facility 

An email signed by anonymous local officers, published by the local news site lesvos.gr, accused the government of "brushing important issues under the carpet." "We at the Police Directorate of Lesvos, as well as the detainees here on the island, are incredibly upset about the news that two colleagues stationed at Moria's refugee camp have contracted tuberculosis. The conditions concerning hygiene and safety at the facility are simply unacceptable," said the email. 

"While, of course, the General Regional Police Directorate of the North Aegean as well as the local Police Directorate of Lesvos have continuously pointed this out to the government and other relevant authorities, the state is not talking about it — instead they prefer to hide everything under the carpet." "We can only hope that by publishing this email the Ministry of Citizen Protection as well as the Ministry of Health will take action immediately." 

Greece's beleaguered Ministry of Migration Policy has come under wave after wave of criticism both from the regional Aegean authorities as well as from health groups, rights groups and NGOs for the squalid conditions at the hugely overcrowded refugee camps, especially the Moria facility.The camp has repeatedly been described by the UN and other human rights groups as overcrowded and "unfit for humans." 

Damning report 

Last month, the Aegean regional directorate gave the state a 30-day ultimatum to clean up Moria after a comprehensive report compiled by a group of environmental and health inspectors from Lesvos' public health directorate concluded that the camp is "unsuitable and a dangerous health risk for the public and the environment." 

The report, which was sent to the Migration Policy Ministry, the Ministry for Protection of Citizens, the Lesvos district attorney and the head of the island's police department, included damning claims. Inspectors stated there is an "uncontrolled wastewater spill at the entrance of the camp, which flows into an adjacent stream and even out onto the road," while it also highlighted broken toilet waste pipes which create a strong stench and which pose "a danger to public health." 

According to the findings of the report, the mass overcrowding and squalid living conditions within Moria — where up to 15 people are squeezed into small houses and up to 150 in each tent — increases the risk of disease transmission. 

Miserable conditions 

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has also urged Greece's government to move children and other vulnerable groups out of the deteriorating Moria camp, adding to the chorus of disapproval. Still, the numbers of people staying there continue to increase rather than decrease, as had been promised by the Greek state. 

"The site at Moria is now in a state of unprecedented emergency, especially with regard to the physical and mental health of thousands of men, women and children who are living in miserable conditions," said the MSF in a statement. "We call on the Greek state to proceed with the urgent transfer of vulnerable people, especially children, to safe housing on the mainland and/or within the European Union." 

Transfers painfully slow 

But while the state has begun moving several hundred migrants from Moria to alternative accommodation on the mainland, progress is painfully slow due to the lengthy asylum processes and huge backlog of applications. The burden continues to grow on state-run camps on the Greek islands like Moria - with 12,585 people on Lesvos alone according to the latest figures - as arrivals from Turkey continue. 

European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, who is Greek, last week emphasized the need for a European solution to a migration crisis that has weighed heavily on Greece and other countries on the EU's southern flank. Avramopoulos underlined the need for solidarity among EU member states and hit out at those unwilling to share responsibility, saying, "A system that has only inflows and no outflows will explode at some point."

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