Covid and the deepening refugee crisis in Turkey

2 Mins read

By Jana Surkova (Team Help Isolate)

The situation in Camp Moria can still be only described as critical, with aerial footage sourced by The Guardian reporting large queues at the border. With COVID-19 ravaging whole towns around the globe, it’s hard not to imagine the dire consequences of what may come if the virus breaks out in the area.

I have interviewed two people for whom the situation is personal and who wished to express their opinions.

“It’s a big problem for Greece,” conveys Lianna, a 20-year-old Athenian. “Some news outlets are even reporting that it might become an armed conflict. We might have to go to war. Young men here are worried.”

“If I am not mistaken, the EU had given Turkey money as part of a deal to stop such a large number of incoming refugees,” Lianna is referring to the EU-Turkey deal of 2016. “They are obviously not fulfilling their part of the promise,” she says.

“We welcome these people [refugees] with open arms,” says Bilgehan Özerim from Istanbul, Turkey. “But some of the European countries are much wealthier, and they still only take 50 thousand, 100 thousand refugees that are hand-picked.”

“Turkey can barely look after its own people,” he reiterates, “but, we are forced to look after refugees as well.”

With the situation in Turkey even further complicated by the global pandemic, perhaps it is no wonder that the country has resolved to the unofficial decision to open its border. It does, however, pose an immense challenge to Greece.

“The refugee camps here are overpopulated,” stresses Lianna. “Moria, especially, has terrible conditions. They have no water or anything. If the virus breaks out, it will be impossible to contain.”

As of the 19th of April, 2020, Greece has 2,235 cases of Coronavirus, a relatively small number for a country of almost 11 million people. It has been maintaining a strict lockdown, with passes required of citizens to leave their homes even for necessities.

Nonetheless, as Lianna points out, Greece has a fragile infrastructure that couldn’t handle a big outbreak, certainly not in one of the country’s biggest migrant camps.

“Refugees are barely treated as human beings. They are just put into crowded camps and forgotten,” says Bilgehan at the end of the interview. “Why would some want to be treated that way? It’s because they are hungry and desperate to survive.”

The least we can do is help them.


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