Human Rights Watch claimed the authorities in Greece were denying refugees the right to lodge asylum claims by holding new arrivals, including many children and vulnerable people, in abject conditions. The group says the 2,000 migrants and asylum seekers were “arbitrarily detained” and placed in “unacceptable” living quarters. Greece has opted to quarantine some of the refugees in a bid to ward off a likely outbreak of the bug among its now 45,000 strong migrant camps, which are currently based within its Aegean islands.
Previously, Express.co.uk has told how Turkey swerved its pact with the EU to allow migrants a free passage across to Greece.
Those making the journey were hopeful they could seek asylum in the bloc, but have instead been met with horror areas to live in while they wait for the Greek authorities to start up its policy of processing applications for them to move on again.
Groups have warned that an outbreak of the killer coronavirus could easily sweep through those camps, which have seen thousands of people crammed into destitute camps fit to house only 6,000.
And HRW claims that many of the people who have been forced into isolation include those with disabilities, older people and pregnant women, but they are living with no basic health precautions.
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This move will, HRW say, actually help the virus spread as opposed to halt it outright on the island.
Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher for HRW, said: “If the government is serious about preventing COVID-19 transmission and illness among migrants and asylum seekers, it needs to scale up testing, provide more tents, and give people enough toilets, water, and soap, and put in place prevention interventions.
“Forcing people, some of whom are at high risk of severe disease or death, to live in dirty and cramped unsanitary conditions, cramped together in close quarters, is a recipe for spreading the virus, not to mention is degrading and inhumane.”
Greece, which has received millions in funding from the bloc to help it with the migrant crisis, is embroiled in a long running dispute with Turkey and the EU over its handling of the refugee situation.
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Earlier this year, Turkey decided to open its borders due to the EU’s “flawed approach” at resolving the issue.
HRW says that governments are able to impose a quarantine to separate people who may have contracted or been exposed to any infectious disease.
The quarantine, HRW suggests, should only be carried out in order to protect the public’s health and not be imposed in an “arbitrary or discriminatory manner”.
But HRW argue that Greece has detained migrants due to their immigration status, while also not offering the correct health protections details by either the World Health Organisation or the International Health Regulations.
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In a press release, the group added: “Women, men, and children are being detained in unsanitary and cramped conditions, regardless of whether the country they have arrived from is considered high COVID-19 risk, with no indication that they will be released if found to be virus-free.
“The authorities do not appear to have tested the detainees for the virus, besides taking their temperature upon arrival. Nor will they be released after the 14-day WHO-recommended isolation period.
“Instead, they face continued immigration detention, even though Greece most likely cannot readmit them to Turkey as a transit country or return them to their countries of origin in the foreseeable future.
“In such circumstances, there is no legal justification for their prolonged detention.”
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