Lesvos, the small Greek island notorious as Europe’s primary landing point for forced migrants from Asia and Africa since 2015, confirmed its first COVID-19 related death on 30 March. Testing across the island quickly confirmed 10 cases among the local population, spreading fear of an uncontrollable outbreak in the densely and overcrowded migrant and refugee camps on the island.
We were expecting this news. One of us is a Lesvos native. Both of us have worked on its refugee crisis for several years. We are painfully familiar with the conditions facing the refugee and migrant population on the island, and the particular dangers they currently pose. Although Greece responded more promptly to the pandemic outbreak than other southern European countries, thus controlling the spread of the virus and achieving one of the lowest rates of infection in Europe, this commendable past conduct does not assure a safe and healthy future. In fact, despite the efforts, on 21 April it was revealed that a total of 150 asymptomatic refugees living in an accommodation facility in a small town in southern Greece tested positive for COVID-19.