Greece extends coronavirus lockdown at refugee camps

Migration and asylum ministry did not say why lockdown at camps for migrants and refugees was being extended.

    Auhorities have so far reported no coronavirus cases in the Aegean island camps for migrants and refugees [Goran Tomasevic/Reuters]
    Auhorities have so far reported no coronavirus cases in the Aegean island camps for migrants and refugees [Goran Tomasevic/Reuters]

    Greece will extend to May 21 a coronavirus lockdown imposed since March on camps for migrants and refugees, authorities have said.

    "The coronavirus measures of confinement for those living in migrant camps and in reception centres in Greece are prolonged until May 21," the migration and asylum ministry said in a statement on Sunday, six days after the first easing of the general coronavirus lockdown in the country.

    The ministry did not say why the camp lockdown was being extended.

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    The Greek government adopted a whole series of anti-coronavirus measures in late March but began easing them from Monday last week given the apparent success made in keeping the outbreak in check.

    In Greece, some 2,710 cases of coronavirus have been recorded and 151 deaths.

    People can now leave their homes without authorisation and on Monday, some shops will open and final year school pupils will return to class.

    Authorities have so far reported no coronavirus cases in the Aegean island camps.

    On the mainland, however, two camps and a hotel accommodating asylum seekers were locked down in April after positive coronavirus tests were returned.

    According to the UNHCR, the total number of asylum seekers in Greece is approximately 120,000.

    In April, on the five Greek Aegean islands where many have been housed waiting to be processed, there were 38,291 migrants, down from 42,052 in February, the UN body said.

    Some 137 asylum seekers were expected to be transferred from Lesbos to the mainland on Sunday.

    The Greek government has promised to transfer 2,000 asylum seekers from the islands to the mainland in order to ease the pressure on the camps there.

    Rights groups say this is not enough to produce a real improvement in conditions, especially given the dangers from the coronavirus pandemic.

    They have also raised concerns that asylum seeker rights are being eroded by the measures taken to curb the virus's spread, but officials insist that Athens will continue to respect its international obligations.

    SOURCE: AFP news agency