Greek authorities extends lockdown in refugee camps


Authorities in Greece have announced the extension of the coronavirus lockdown imposed in March on migrant camps, which had been expected to be lifted from Monday.

The Greek government adopted a whole series of anti-coronavirus measures in late March but began easing them from Monday last week given the apparent success made in keeping the outbreak in check.

“The coronavirus measures of confinement for those living in migrant camps and in reception centres in Greece are prolonged until 21 May,” the Migration and Asylum Ministry said in a statement on Sunday, six days after the first easing of the general lockdown in the country.

The ministry did not say why the camp lockdown was being extended, AFP reports.

In Greece as a whole, some 2,710 cases of coronavirus have been recorded and 151 deaths.

People can now leave their homes without authorisation and on Monday, some shops will open and final year school pupils will return to class.

Until now, there have been no coronavirus cases in the Aegean island camps, according to authorities. On the mainland, however, two camps and a hotel accommodating asylum-seekers were locked down in April after positive coronavirus tests were returned.

According to the UNHCR, the total number of asylum-seekers in Greece is around 120,000. In April, on the five Greek Aegean islands where many have been housed waiting to be processed, there were 38,291 migrants, down from 42,052 in February, the UN body said.

On Sunday, 137 asylum-seekers are expected to be transferred from Lesbos to the mainland. The Greek government has promised to transfer 2,000 asylum- seekers from the islands to the mainland in order to ease the pressure on the camps there.

Rights groups say this is not enough to produce a real improvement in conditions, especially given the dangers from the coronavirus pandemic. They also fear that asylum-seeker rights are being eroded by the measures taken to curb the virus’s spread but officials insist that Athens will continue to respect its international obligations. (Source: The Guardian)