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Horror for refugees as conditions make coronavirus more deadly

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Issue 2697
A burnt out refugee centre in Lesvos
A burnt out refugee centre in Lesvos (Pic: Guy Smallman)

In Greece overcrowded refugee camps on islands in the Aegean sea have been put on lockdown.

Tens of thousands of refugees trapped on the islands are being asked to stay inside.

Whole families are told to stay inside tents or tiny corners inside converted shipping containers.

One child was killed in a fire in a container in the Moria camp on the island of Lesvos on Monday of last week.

In Moria there are now only five doctors and seven nurses for more than 20,000 residents.

Sanitation is a major worry. The Greek government said cleaning services would be bolstered inside the camps.

But a source inside Moria told Socialist Worker that rubbish is piling up and human waste spilling out onto the paths.

There is just one water tap for every 1,300 people in some parts of the camp.

Socialist Worker has seen footage of refugees desperately scrambling for bottled water distributed at the camp’s gates.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders called on the Greek government to evacuate the camps and give refugees safety on the mainland.

The charity’s medical coordinator in Greece, Hilde Vochten, said, “Recommended measures such as frequent hand washing and social distancing are just impossible.”

Elsewhere in northern France, aid workers say refugees feel “scared, ignored and abandoned” in the face of the growing coronavirus crisis.

Around 800 refugees are trapped in squalid conditions at Britain’s border in Calais and northern France.

One British aid volunteer told Socialist Worker, “There is a huge health risk.

“People don’t eat properly, their immune systems are shot to ribbons, they live in damp conditions and many have respiratory problems.”

Kiarash, an Iranian refugee, told Socialist Worker, “It is really important that there are support agencies still coming in.

“It would be a disaster for refugees if the aid was withdrawn.”

Campaign frees 300 detainees

Pressure from detainee rights’ organisations has forced the Tory government to release 300 people from immigration detention centres.

The move comes after detainee groups launched a legal challenge and open letter calling for people’s release. They warned that not releasing people amid the coronavirus outbreak could have “catastrophic consequences”.

Bella Sankey is director of Detention Action, one of the groups taking on the Home Office.

She said, “Our landmark legal challenge has already forced a response from the home secretary. We are delighted the high court has now ordered a hearing for next week and we’ll be pressing for a robust review of all detentions.”

Online rally for Stand Up To Racism

Hundreds of people tuned into an online rally organised by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) last Saturday.

SUTR had cancelled national demonstrations in London and Glasgow because of the coronavirus crisis.

Speakers at the online rally included writer and academic Gary Younge, Labour MP Claudia Webbe and TUC union federation equalities officer Wilf Sullivan.



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