IOM confirms new COVID-19 cases in Greek asylum facility


A new COVID-19 outbreak in an IOM-managed temporary accommodation facility for asylum seekers in Greece has been confirmed with 150 people tested positive for coronavirus at a hotel that’s been converted into a migrant shelter in the town of Kranidi, in southern Greece.

The number of infected include 148 asylum seekers, an aid worker and a hotel employee. Both the aid worker and the hotel employee are now quarantined at their homes.

All cases are asymptomatic, but their conditions are being closely monitored, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Tuesday.

“It is very important for these people to receive continued support and assistance,” said Gianluca Rocco, IOM Chief of Mission in Greece.

The IOM says 471 asylum seekers live at the facility. Most are single parents from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Cameroon.

The shelter has been under quarantine since a single positive case was identified last week and in line with the protocols developed by the Greek authorities all the residents movements were restricted to the hotel grounds.

Rocco also urged authorities to avoid stigmatizing migrants during the pandemic as it is “not only harmful to migrants themselves,” he said, “but also to society as a whole, and may jeopardize efforts made to prevent or mitigate the spreading of the virus.”

A team of IOM facility coordinators, psychologists and interpreters, a legal counsellor and social worker provided with personal protective equipment (PPEs) continue to meet the needs of the people with the support of the European Commission.

The hotel has been sanitized, its staff provided with PPEs and information disseminated about Greek National COVID-19 guidelines.

Food continues to be provided by the hotel, while IOM staff, in collaboration with the local authorities will continue to deliver meals suitable for toddlers, as their parents are unable to access to local markets.

Greece has been on strict lockdown since March 23. That’s helped keep its COVID-19 infection and mortality rate much lower than in other European countries, including Italy, Spain, France and Britain.

As of Tuesday, there were 2,401 confirmed cases and 121 deaths in Greece. The government announced it would start opening some public services on April 27, and hopes to ease restrictions on movement. If all goes well, it would open the country to tourists sometime this summer.

But human rights groups accuse Greek authorities of ignoring the vulnerability of some 60,000 asylum seekers. There have already been two outbreaks at migrant camps near Athens.

So far, the virus has not hit severely overcrowded camps on Greece’s Aegean islands, where water and soap are scarce. (Source: IOM)