A young child died in a fire in the overcrowded Moria camp on Lesbos. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warns that living conditions in the island hotspots “provide the perfect storm for a COVID-19 outbreak”. 450 people who have been detained for weeks in the habour of Mytilene have been moved to a closed camp north of Athens.

A young girl died in a large fire that broke out on March 16 in the overcrowded Moria camp on Lesbos. A spokesperson from the fire brigade stated that containers and tents used as living quarters caught fire in the camp which has capacity for less than 3000 people and is currently hosting more than 19,000.

Following the first registered case of the virus in Lesbos, MSF warned that the overcrowded and horrific living conditions in the hotspots on the Greek islands constitute a great risk of an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. “In some parts of Moria camp there is just one water tap for every 1,300 people and no soap available. Families of five or six have to sleep in spaces of no more than 3m2,” stated Dr Hilde Vochten, MSF’s Medical Coordinator in Greece.

Since first of March, 450 people intercepted by the Greek Coast Guard have been detained on a vessel docked in the Mytilene Harbour in Lesbos. Following the Greek suspension of asylum procedures the group had no possibility to apply for asylum. Reportedly, they were asked to sign documents in Greek which confirmedthat they were informed about being returned to Turkey. According to Human Rights Watch the group has been moved to a closed camp in Malakassa, north of Athens.

The Council of Europe’s European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) completed a rapid reaction visit to Greece between 13-17 March: “to examine the way in which persons attempting to enter the country and apprehended by the Hellenic Police or Coast Guard have been treated, notably since 1 March 2020, when inter alia the processing of asylum requests was suspended.” The visit covered “quasi-official places of detention and examined allegations of push backs across the Evros River by certain Greek forces,” and preleminary findings will be communicated to Greek authorities shortly.

Statistics from the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR reveal that as of March 15, Greece has seen a total of 9,369 arrivals, 7,366 by sea and 2,003 by land this year.

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Photo (CC): Alex Griffioen September 2006

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.