Conditions for refugees on the Greek islands, as here on Lesbos, can be dire | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Tzorzinis
On Tuesday, April 14, Ylva Johansson, the EU commissioner for home affairs, announced that around 1,000 vulnerable migrants currently living in camps on the Greek islands would be transferred to empty hotels, reported InfoMigrants.net.
Johansson said this measure, in combination with the Greek government, Greek locals and the UN Migration Agency was putting "EU values in practice, even in such trying times."
According to latest UNHCR data, there are currently around 39,100 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers resident on the Greek islands. They are spread across camps that have places for little more than 6,000 people.
Two migrant camps on the Greek mainland have already been placed into lockdown because of positive cases of the coronavirus being found there. Strict quarantine measures are also imposed in the most notorious migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.
However, human rights groups have been repeating since the start of the coronavirus crisis that it is almost impossible to maintain the required distance between people in the camps. Another measure that all European citizens have been required to carry out -- frequent hand washing -- is also very difficult in a camp where several thousand people might share one water tap, or have no access to any hygiene facilities if they are outside the official camp spaces.
Various human rights groups and international organizations are continuing their call to empty the camps completely in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, Greece has suffered 102 deaths from the pandemic and the current nationwide lockdown is due to be lifted, or reassessed by April 27.
Palestinian refugees continue to risk their lives onboard the “death boats” to Greece, rummaging around for a momentary respite from the daily scenes of destruction, displacement, and economic hardship.