The Looming Refugee Coronavirus Disaster

Greece’s camps were a public health menace already.


ATHENS, Greece—On the Greek island of Lesbos, living conditions for the few thousand asylum-seekers in the notorious Moria refugee camp were already dismal when Mohsen first arrived in early 2017. The overcrowding, understaffing, and lack of adequate health care made the camp into a hub for illnesses.


Over the past three years, the 38-year-old Iranian asylum-seeker watched the camp’s population swell around him. With Moria’s residents now numbering an estimated 20,000, Mohsen fears that COVID-19 could eventually hit the camp, where, having fled war and economic devastation in countries from Syria to Somalia, thousands of people live in tents and makeshift shacks in the olive groves surrounding the camp’s perimeter, exposed to the elements and all sorts of illnesses.


As the coronavirus spreads across Greece, Mohsen says the camp’s shortage of doctors, supplies, and food could create a disastrous situation. “There are a lot of people in the [fields],” he said. “They don’t have anything to keep them warm [or] clean, and there’s no electricity.”


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