ETUC urges EU action to stop coronavirus disaster in Greece

The European Trade Union Confederation is calling on the European Union to: 

  • Save migrants from appalling living conditions and reported human rights violations on the Greek Turkish border
  • Evacuate the migrants from insanitary and overcrowded camps on the Greek islands to avoid a devastating outbreak of coronavirus

In a letter to the Presidents of the three main EU institutions – Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel and David Sassoli – ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini asks the European Commission to submit to the Council a proposal for a protection scheme for the immediate relief of displaced people at Greek borders with contributions from all member states and regrets that recent EU decisions have been going in the opposite direction.

It also calls for “the immediate evacuation of the migrants in the Greek islands to an appropriate and safe accommodation”. There are 42,000 people in overcrowded camps on the Greek islands. In some parts of Moria camp in Lesvos there is just one water tap for every 1,300 people with no soap available, and families of five or six have to sleep in spaces of no more than three square metres.

The letter says “Greece needs the support of the EU and all European partners” and that “All resources allocated to tackling this emergency should be used for the direct benefit of displaced people, and for the dignity of the people crowding refugee camps.”

The ETUC sees the launch of the new military operation IRINI in the Mediterranean as the continuation of a worrying trend whereby surveillance, security and border control are prioritised over saving lives and protecting the rights of those seeking asylum.

The letter asks the EU to “safeguard the right to seek asylum in Greece and ensure that all EU member states comply with their international obligations”.

“Conditions for migrants in Greek camps were already appalling, and with corona virus they have become even more dangerous and unacceptable” said ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini.

“While people across Europe are social distancing, the conditions in migrant camps in Greece make it impossible. There is a real risk of a corona virus disaster. The EU has to act in solidarity with human life and Greek authorities to protect migrants, and us all, from corona virus.”

Trade unions have been working hard to protect working people’s health, jobs and incomes through the corona virus emergency, and working with employers and governments to achieve the best possible measures to protect all working people and the economy.

The situation of migrants in Greece poses a serious risk to their own health and lives, and of those citizens and workers in close contact with them. 

For more information on what trade unions are doing to protect workers from the impacts of corona virus see:

Photo credit: Ivan Radic/Creative Commons