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Greece extends migrant camp lockdown

Greece's migration ministry did not say why the lockdown was being extended [AFP]

Date of publication: 22 May, 2020

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Greece announced it has extended a coronavirus lockdown on migrant camps until June 7.

Greece has extended until June 7 a coronavirus lockdown imposed on the overcrowded migrant camps since March, the government announced Friday.

"Measures against the propagation of the Covid-19 virus are extended for residents of the reception and identification centres across the country," the migration ministry said in a statement.

The ministry did not say why the lockdown was being extended.

On March 17, the government imposed the lockdown on the migrant camps both on the islands and the mainland. 

That was a week after a more general lockdown in the country, which was eased early this month after the apparent success in keeping the outbreak in check.

On May 10, it extended the measure for the camps until May 21, and then until June 7 on Friday.  

As in the rest of the country, the coronavirus outbreak has had little impact on the camps.

Among the 168 dead in Greece, there are no known deaths so far due to Covid-19 among the migrants, according to authorities.

And among the 2,853 cases of coronavirus reported in the country, only a few dozen have been recorded in three facilities on the mainland, but none in the sordid camps of the Aegean islands.

Massive screening tests in the camps, however, only started in early May.

Only two migrants who arrived on the island of Lesbos in early May and live in a temporary camp in the north of the island have tested positive and placed in quarantine.

In the Moria camp, one of the most overcrowded in Europe, "no case" of COVID-19 has been recorded so far, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said recently.

But rights groups have voiced fears that the rights of the migrants could be eroded by the anti-virus restrictions.

"We understand that the risks posed by COVID-19 must be reduced as a matter of priority," said Boris Cheshirkov, spokesman for the UNHCR office in Greece.

But the "exceptional measures" in the migrant camps "must be lifted as soon as the public health risks are addressed and proportionally to the lifting of restrictions elsewhere in Greece", he told AFP.

"The temporary measures to respond to the virus should not be maintained for longer than necessary."

More than 33,000 asylum seekers live in the five camps on the Aegean islands, with a total capacity of 5,400 people, and some 70,000 in other facilities on the mainland.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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