Tech & Rights

Our Health Depends on Everyone Else's, Including Newcomers

To make it through the pandemic all of us must get the care we need, no matter where we live. The Greek government has been making this impossible for newcomers they are holding in camps. But it doesn't have to be this way.

by Jascha Galaski
Matthias Ripp - Flickr/CC

The pandemic has made it clear that our health depends on everyone else's: the person in the next house, town, or country. We are all connected to each other. We can only stop the virus spreading and keep each other safe if we give the same care and support to everyone, no matter where we are living.

That includes people who live close to each other in confined spaces. Whether that is care homes for people with disabilities or older people, shelters for people without a house, prisons, hospitals or camps holding newcomers and people asking for asylum.

Everyone knows that to stop the virus from spreading we have to keep a minimum physical distance, wash our hands and isolate ourselves if we have symptoms. If you're in a crowded space it can be difficult to take these precautions. So it creates a bigger risk that the virus can spread. The Greek government has made it impossible for thousands of people they are holding in camps to take these precautions.

The Greek government is putting people at risk

These are women, men and children who have had to run away from their homes - because of war, famine or because they were persecuted by their governments. Newcomers want the same things we do. A safe place to live, a job to support their families and a community to contribute to. The pandemic gives us another reminder that we are all human.

The Greek government is holding more than 20,000 people inside the Moria camp. But the camp was only made for 3,000 people. Inside people are sleeping in tents and living in cramped spaces. People can't keep a safe physical distance between each other and anyone who has the virus doesn't have the space to isolate themselves. What's more, the government has not given people inside the camp a way of washing their hands. There is just one water tap for every 1,300 people, and no soap available.

The Greek government is also increasing the risk that people will die if they catch the virus. We know that if you are healthy your chances of dying from the virus are much lower. But many of the camp residents have had long and difficult journeys. The Greek authorities aren't providing enough food and water. And many people have been living in these conditions for months. These things mean that many people are in poor health. On top of all this, there aren't enough doctors, nurses, medicine or medical equipment.

It doesn't have to be this way

Since 2015, the Greek government has received over 2 billion euros from the EU to spend on people arriving from outside Europe looking for safety. It could have used more of these resources to make sure there are humane living conditions in its camps. That includes enough food and water, doctors and nurses, medicine and equipment.

Instead of using tents the government could provide accommodation with solid walls. And instead of forcing so many people into such a cramped space the government could provide more room. These steps would allow people to keep their physical distance, help stop the virus spreading and make it less likely to kill people who catch it. The Greek government has started doing some of these new things after asking the EU for more help, but the changes are happening very slowly.

As well as making the camps livable, the authorities should make sure that people are not trapped there for such a long time. This is something that other European governments could help with. For example, by welcoming newcomers to their countries to start a new life. Unfortunately, many European governments are refusing to allow newcomers to move to their countries from Greece.

We need to go all in for each other

The health of all of us depends on everyone else's. No matter where we live, our government should give us the care and support we need to stay healthy during the pandemic. That means making sure people can live in proper accommodation, that they have proper hygiene, supplies and health care. The Greek government needs to make this happen in camps like Moria and other European governments should help it.


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