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20 January 2021 – Greece

A View of the Petropoulaki Camp in Filippiada, (Ministry of Migration & Asylum,
A View of the Petropoulaki Camp in Filippiada, (Ministry of Migration & Asylum, "Facility Filippiadas," accessed on 22 January 2021,

In mid-January, Greece’s Ministry of Migration and Asylum published their annual statistics from 2020, which show a 80 percent decrease in migrant arrivals and a 63 percent decrease in the populations of its reception centres on the islands. Combined with the closure of numerous detention facilities, the ministry proclaimed that 2020 was the year that Greece “regained control” of the migration “crisis.”

In late 2020, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) published a report of the impact of long-term stays at the islands’ Reception and Identification Centres (RICs) on migrants’ mental health. A section on COVID-19 reveals its compounding negative effects on the migrants’ mental health. According to their field research, the scarce access to hygiene services like running water and soap, together with the cramped living conditions have led to further mental distress due to fear of COVID-19 infection.

The enforcement of administrative detention in pre-removal detention centres by the Greek authorities continues, despite shortcomings in healthcare provision in the centres. By mid-December 2020, 2,447 people were detained in the pre-removal detention centres: 877 in Corinth, 541 in Amygdaleza, 380 in Kos and 359 in Paranesti. According to the Refugee Support Aegean, the total number of medical staff of the Health Units Societe Anonyme (SA), which provides medical services in all of Greece’s detention centres, was 37: 8 doctors, 2 psychiatrists, 24 nurses and 3 health visitors. On average, there was one available doctor for 305.9 people. At the same time, merely 12 translators were available for all centres.

In a joint letter released on 22 December 2020, 73 local and international NGOs outline the harsh accommodation problems migrants face in Greece, which are exacerbated by continuing COVID-19 constraints and weather conditions. They condemn how around 11,000 asylum seekers were left homeless after being removed from their ESTIA apartments, FILOXENIA hotel rooms, as well as island and inland accommodation structures. The government justifies the immediate forced exits from the temporary housing structures as a measure that will make the refugees “stand on their own two feet.” The letter criticises that the forced removals one month after being granted asylum prevents the asylum seekers from receiving housing, food and financial support from the European Union. Additionally, the civil society organisations are concerned about the large number of vulnerable people removed from their accommodation, including survivors of sexual violence and/or torture, people with health problems, including mental health and some form of disability, single women and single-parent families, and people from the LGBTQI+ community. Transit sites have been offered to a small number of people to offer temporary shelter up to two months.

Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been tackled with varying degrees of success in different migration facilities in the last weeks. In early January 2021, a COVID-19 outbreak was recorded in the facility for refugees and migrants ‘Sparta Inn’ in Sparta. The inhabitants of the facility are 245 officially recognised beneficiaries of international protection, of which 115 are children aged 0 to 15 years. After the first positive case on 31 December 2020, all exits from the building were forbidden until 13 January 2021 and 188 further tests were carried out, of which 21 were positive. The IOM attempted to isolate positive cases in separate floors in order to prevent the further spread of the virus. On 7 January 2021, some of the people inside broke their quarantine, went out on the sidewalks and protested. The protesting migrants were dissatisfied with the management carried out by the competent bodies and especially by the NGO that is responsible. Their complaints included matters relating to their diet and the hygiene items, but also because the healthy are obliged to live with those who have been infected with the coronavirus. They also reported that the pace of completing the procedures and issuing the documents needed to leave Greece is extremely slow. (Video footage of the protest at the Inn:

Local Greek media positively reported the COVID-19 measures taken in the Reception and Identification Center ‘Vial’ in Chios. In the past two months, only two positive cases were found among the migrant population. To prevent overwhelming the local hospital, a separate doctor’s office was set up and equipped accordingly by the camp, and both an isolation and a quarantine area were set up. They also undertook preventative measures for a possible third wave, including improving its isolation area with their own baths and toilets, higher capacity and repaired electrical, plumbing and sewerage infrastructure. These positive developments are however not going to last long, as the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum has been evicted and must return the property since the lease expired in 2019. The Minister wishes to build a new camp this year, yet the local population remains hostile and wishes to decongest the island. (Sources and photos from the centre in Chios: )

Since 13 January 2021, the Preveza reception centre has been in quarantine after one person tested positive for COVID-19. Out of 35 subsequent tests of the infected person’s close contacts, 18 were positive. The centre is guarded by police forces and meetings in common areas within the camp are forbidden.