Report: In Lesvos, the humanitarian emergency has darkened the coronavirus epidemic

On the Greek island of Lesbos, the coronavirus epidemic worries authorities. The 35 migrants who tested positive for the virus fled with the other migrants during the fire that destroyed the Moria camp on the night of September 8-9. But for the refugees who have lived on the streets for a week, Covid-19 is nothing more than a distant anxiety, which is largely dominated by not finding food every day.

Under a gray blanket attached to a wire fence on one side and supported on the other by small wooden sticks, Jessica sits, shoulder to shoulder, between two young men. These Cameroonians are dismissed from the impossibility of maintaining any social distance among the thousands of people who have lived on the streets for a week along the road to Mytilene.

“We are trapped here like chickens in a battery. When there are distributions [de nourriture] we are lumped together, it is impossible to have a distance of one meter “, irritates the young woman in a black sleeveless t-shirt.

At a few hundred meters along which the survivors of the Moria campfire are installed, the coronavirus seems to belong to another era. A time when migrants still had the energy to avoid contamination despite the hardships of life in Moria.

>> To (re) read:One week after the Moria fire, migrants are still living on the streets

Since the fire, some social distancing seems impossible and above all, the urgency is elsewhere. “The biggest concern for these people now is access to food and water,” said Dimitra Chasioti, a MSF psychologist at the NGO’s clinic. near the tents.

The psychologist remembers that a few days ago her patients were very worried about the epidemic. Especially when the first positive case was declared in the Moria camp on 2 September. “We talked a lot about it in consultation,” she says.

Today, some rare people wear a mask but are in the ultra-minority. Abolfazl, 13, has his face hidden by a blue cloth mask donated by Association One Happy Family. “Most refugees are not afraid of coronavirus, but we must be vigilant […] If a person here has the coronavirus, everyone will have it, says the teenager from Afghanistan.

The day after the campfire, One Happy Family handed out 200 masks to the survivors. “Everything we had,” said Nicolas, a volunteer who did not want his last name published. “In the past, we also distributed hand rubbing and soap. But currently no one really cares about the coronavirus, there are more urgent needs.”

Abolfazl 13 years old received a mask from the Swiss association One Happy Familly the day after the fire in the Moria camp Crdit Mehdi Chebil for InfoMigrants

Alarming spread

A few days before the fire, the number of infected was at 35 in the Moria camp. Everyone fled the flames with the other migrants. Only a few have been identified since the evacuation.

The situation worries the local authorities a lot. Especially since the island of Lesbos had already been added at the end of August to a list of places where the spread of the virus is alarming.

In the new temporary camp being built by the sea, a rapid test is being carried out for the detection of coronavirus on all new inhabitants. People who have had a positive test are placed in isolation, but the result of the test does not affect the asylum seekers’ asylum applications. “Coronavirus has nothing to do with asylum […] The infected people are placed in quarantine, but this does not in any way affect the asylum application procedures “, emphasizes Eli Thanou, lawyer, member of the Greek Refugee Council.

>> To (re) read:“Die here rather than go to a new camp”: in Lesbos, migrants do not want additional Moria

Among the thousands of people who have lived for a week in tents and temporary protection along the road to Mytilene, it is difficult to know who is positive for the coronavirus. In their mobile clinic set up across the road, MSF teams try to identify potential patients.

“If anyone has clear symptoms of coronavirus, we take them to the hospital [de Mytilène] and [l’équipe médicale de l’hôpital] takes care of the situation, an ambulance will pick up the person. This happened once yesterday for a baby, explains Faris Al-Jawad, spokesman for the medical NGO.

“[Les patients] must have more symptoms than a simple cough, such as fever, because everyone coughs a little here, he adds.

Impossible prevention

Some migrants can also serve as lookout points in the camp. That’s the case with Dadi Mukendi. This former cameraman from the Democratic Republic of Congo attended a training course on coronavirus delivered by MSF in August. “We learned how to protect people from the coronavirus, how to wash their hands, what the symptoms of the disease are and how to wear and change a mask,” he explains.

He still wears the blue t-shirt he received during this training. But it is no longer preventable. This is one of the few things he was able to take with him during the fire.

Dadi Mukendi received training on coronavirus delivered by MSF Crdit Mehdi Chebil for InfoMigrantsIn addition, Dadi Mukendi admits, in the face of the situation, he gave up. How do you ask people to wash their hands when there is no water? How should you not approach others when you have to physically force yourself to eat?

Médecins Sans Frontières, for its part, has already chosen the most urgent. “Of course, it is worrying that after the fire, 35 isolated cases [de coronavirus] scattered, “says Faris Al-Jawad.” At present, it is urgent for MSF to get people to a safe place. It’s not the street. “

A report by Julia Dumont, special correspondent in Lesbos.