The protection of refugees is necessary for an effective COVID-19 response in Greece

The Danish Refugee Council is highly concerned about the inadequate protection of asylum seekers and refugees following the lockdown of Koutochero site in central Greece.


ATHENS - After Greek authorities identified some positive COVID19 cases amongst a Roma settlement in Central Greece early on Friday and placed Koutsochero refugee site under quarantine for the next fourteen days, advising residents to remain in their accommodations. This is the 3rd out of the 30 open sites in Greece that is quarantined to date.

“Refugees can be affected by this virus as much as the local population and some of the residents in refugee sites may face great risks due to existing vulnerabilities and limited access to health care” said Kyriakos Giaglis, DRC Greece Country Director.

DRC will continue to work at the quarantined site and support refugees by providing food, hygiene and cleaning items and maintaining critical water, sanitation and electrical infrastructure of the site according to needs and official instructions. In collaboration with the National Health Organization, DRC has identified and prepared isolation spaces to accommodate any suspected cases of COVID-19.

DRC supports more than 5,800 people as the Site Management Support actor in nine mainland refugee sites in Greece, in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration, funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union and with the support of the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG Home).

“Constant communication with refugee communities, authorities and other actors is key to reducing the virus spreading further and we will work as hard as we can. The safety of DRC workers and site residents is our priority” said Giaglis.

The organisation also continues to provide necessary assistance to refugees in all nine sites, making use of personal protective equipment and following a strict safety protocol. Chlorine and soaps are distributed to site residents, working spaces and common areas are cleaned and disinfected and refugee communities receive updated information on protective measures through announcements, print and remote messaging in multiple languages.

“We recognise that there is immense pressure and we stand in solidarity with the  governments' efforts. In these critical times, we must also stress the important role for the Greek authorities to enable migrants’ access to healthcare and safety,” Giaglis said. “This is not only important for refugees who live on island and mainland facilities, but also for a truly effective response to the COVID-19 in Greece.”

DRC advocates for increased human resources to achieve a timely and effective response to COVID-19 in Greek refugee-hosting facilities. The organization fears that the spread of the virus coupled with the lack of access to sanitation, testing and medical facilities, especially in the overcrowded facilities on the islands, may have a devastating effect on many vulnerable people. Preventive evacuation of the population at high risk, increased protective measures and decongestion to the extent possible are urgently needed.

“We renew our call to EU member states to step up relocation efforts of unaccompanied minors and vulnerable people from the islands. There is no time to lose,” said Giaglis.   

The Danish Refugee Council works in more than 35 countries around the world and has been monitoring the outbreak and spread of the virus across its operations since its early phases. The organization is doing the utmost to maintain full operation and presently redirecting and adjusting programs to prepare and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. DRC also advocates for proportionate and non-discriminatory emergency measures in place to protect the general public health as well as the displaced populations.