Even though Greece is slowly but steadily lifting strict COVID-19 restrictions across the country, it is keeping more than 120,000 refugees in lockdown in overcrowded camps to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Greece’s Migration and Asylum Ministry said confinement for refugees in camps across the country would be extended to July 5. It was due to have ended on Monday.
Greece was quick to introduce strict confinement measures on refugee camps on March 21 and imposed a more general lockdown on March 23.
While no known coronavirus deaths have been recorded in the camps so far and only a few dozen infections have surfaced, the measures have since been extended a number of times.
World Refugee Day:
The announcement’s timing, hours after 2,000 people rallied in Athens streets for World Refugee Day, demanding an end to the confinement of refugees and improvement in their abysmal living conditions, was controversial.
“While restrictions on freedom of movement to protect public health can be necessary and justified, they must be based on scientific evidence, neither arbitrary nor discriminatory in their application… respectful of human dignity and subject to review,” Eva Cosse, of the Human Rights Watch in Athens, told VOA News.
“The camp lockdowns do not meet these criteria and yet, these discriminatory lockdowns continue.”
In response in a message for World Refugee Day, the Migration and Asylum Ministry said Greece has found itself “at the centre of the migration crisis bearing a disproportionate burden.”
“The country is safeguarding the rights of those who are really persecuted and operates as a shield of solidarity in the eastern Mediterranean.”
This year, 10,095 migrants and refugees have reached Greece, using rickety, rubber rafts to cross the Aegean Sea, mainly from Turkey.