Greek Island Migrant Camps Put on Lockdown over Coronavirus


Migrant reception centres on several Greek islands have been put under a two-week lockdown this week in order to mitigate the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.

The lockdown will apply to all visitors and volunteers as well as the staff of organisations and NGOs working with migrants. Services at the reception centres, such as schools and other facilities, will also be shut down.

The Greek migration ministry announced the measures on Tuesday, according to a report from newspaper Kathimerini, and migrants will be told not to leave the reception centres, while sanitation is expected to be increased throughout the camps.

The lockdown comes just a week after the island of Lesbos, which hosts the notorious Moria migrant camp, saw its first confirmed case of coronavirus. The Moria migrant camp also saw a major fire earlier this week that led to the death of a six-year-old child.

NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has called on the Greek government to evacuate the migrants from the islands instead of locking them down, arguing that the poor sanitary conditions of the overcrowded camps were perfect conditions for the spread of the virus.

Dr Hilde Vochten, MSF’s Greek Medical Coordinator, commented on the situation saying: “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 three square metres.”

“It would be impossible to contain an outbreak,” Dr Vochten said.

“Given the lack of adequate sanitation services and the severely limited medical care, the risk of the virus spreading amongst the inhabitants of the camps in Greece is extremely high once they have been exposed,” the NGO added.

Since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the gates to Europe in late February, over 50,000 migrants have attempted to cross the land border into Greece, while hundreds have attempted to land on Greek islands.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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