Refugees and migrants wait for coronavirus testing at Greece's Moria refugee camp on Lesbos on September 4, 2020 | Photo: EPA/Stratis Balaskas
Refugees and migrants wait for coronavirus testing at Greece's Moria refugee camp on Lesbos on September 4, 2020 | Photo: EPA/Stratis Balaskas

Greek authorities are enforcing an "ill-considered" and "potentially very damaging" quarantine for migrants and asylum seekers at the overcrowded Moria camp on Lesbos, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has said. The organization also renewed its appeal to evacuate migrants to the mainland.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has accused the Greek government of enforcing an "ill-considered" and "potentially very damaging and harmful" quarantine for residents of the overcrowded Moria migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.

This "sort of mass quarantine must be avoided at all costs," according to MSF. The organization highlighted the "lack of comprehensive strategy to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the camp" and called for protecting what is left of people's dignity".

Since the first COVID-19 case was detected in Moria last Wednesday (September 2), the number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus has risen to 17. The camp is under quarantine through September 15.

"The government's duty of care requires them to boost the public health response for the asylum seekers of Moria, not to imprison them in their hellish conditions as a way of pretending to protect the island from the spread of the virus," MSF said.

According to MSF, there are more than 200 individuals "whose age and underlying health conditions put them at serious risk from COVID-19."

Appeal to evacuate migrants

For months, MSF and other organizations have been calling for the total evacuation of all Moria residents. The organizations specifically urged Greek authorities to move particularly medically vulnerable people to safe accommodation on Lesbos, mainland Greece or other EU states.

"In April, the government promised such an evacuation from the islands, but five months later these people are still trapped, and are now contained by a police cordon," MSF said. Not evacuating the camp would be a "clear dereliction of the Greek authorities' duty of care," MSF said further.

Marco Sandrone, MSF project leader on Lesbos, called the local health authorities' testing of Moria residents for COVID-19 a "fraction of what needs to be done."

"A proper public health response is what is needed; well-planned, with contact-tracing as well as testing, a serious boost to hygiene conditions and healthcare services that are easily accessible," Sandrone said.

"We cannot see the justification of the enforced mass quarantine," he added. The health worker also said he was worried about MSF patients with "already deteriorating mental health."

"There are elderly people with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, as well as children who are afraid and are being exposed to more trauma as a result of this policy," he warned.

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