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Society

Greece’s Refugee Camps Keep COVID-19 Clampdown in Place

Tight restrictions remain in place at refugee camps, centers and hotels holding some 100,000 refugees and migrants across Greece, including more than 38,000 on island, measures aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

People in the facilities are being limited on going in and out with heavy fines for violators and as the New Democracy government had suspended applications for asylum during the pandemic. 

While there weren't any cases reported in the camps and centers on five Greek islands near the coast of Turkey, which has let human traffickers keep operating during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, some 150 were reported in a hotel housing refugees and migrants in the town of Kranidi and in at least two other camps on the mainland.

The most cases were in the hotel in the southern Peloponnese region, a run-down resort  converted into a shelter to house about 500 migrants, mainly from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Voice of America reported.

An aid worker and a member of the hotel's staff have also been found infected. None, though, have shown serious symptoms so far, the report said, but as all were being monitored to keep track.

There was unrest in some facilities and protests from refugees and migrants who said they weren't kept informed about the virus and with the facilities in which they are being kept vastly overcrowded, making it impossible for people to stay the recommended 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) social distance apart from each other. 

Many have been caught sneaking out of the squalid and overcrowded camps, trying to find refuge elsewhere, the report said, which could endanger the government lockdown aimed at controlling the pandemic.

Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi said there's no plans yet to ease the restrictions even as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is said ready to announce a gradual phasing out of the tight measures that closed non-essential businesses.

Mitarachi said migrants caught violating quarantines will be barred from applying for asylum, be fined and sent back to their homelands or Turkey, where they had first gone after fleeing war and strife in their homelands, wanting to use that country as a jumping-off point to get to Greece after the EU closed its borders to them. 

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