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Press Release

Lockdown measures in Greece amount to discrimination against refugees, IRC warns

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As Greece has eased lockdown restrictions for the nation and opened its doors to tourists, refugees living in camps remain under curfew in a discriminatory practice that jeopardises their mental health and puts their lives at risk. 

The Greek government has today continued to extend lockdown restrictions for asylum seekers in refugee camps across the country. People are subject to a strict curfew, with many having expressed difficulty in getting hold of food and medicine, while fines of up to 150 Euros have been issued to asylum seekers found outside of the camps without permission. Greek citizens, however, are encouraged to return to work, go to restaurants and welcome holidaymakers from overseas.

The IRC provides mental health support to asylum seekers living in Lesvos, Samos and Chios, and our team of psychologists know that many people living in reception centres have long suffered with mental health issues, owing to poor conditions and lack of clarity about their future. 

Dr. Georgia Karoutzou, Senior Manager for the IRC’s mental health programme said:

“The psychological impact of lockdown measures on asylum seekers cannot be underestimated. With no space for social distancing or self-isolation and limited access to hygiene and sanitation facilities, asylum seekers know how vulnerable they are to Covid-19. People have not been told the reason behind the continuing restrictions and many clients have told us about overwhelming feelings of imprisonment and despair. a testament to the severe impact that living in overcrowded reception centres has on mental health.”

Dimitra Kalogeropoulou, IRC Director in Greece, said: 

“Put simply, these policies amount to discrimination. There is no medical evidence to support the restriction of movement to refugees alone, and it is untenable that the nation may enjoy freedom of movement while others face life inside overcrowded camps with inadequate access to water and sanitation. If lockdown is to be lifted, it must be lifted for all.”


About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee has worked in Greece since 2015 and provides mental health support to refugees living in camps in Lesvos, Samos and Chios. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have scaled up our presence in Lesvos to cover the water, sanitation and environmental health needs in quarantine areas across the island. . Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.