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#Seawatch: Send decommissioned cruise ships to evacuate camps in Greece

Greece. March 23, 2020. While the Corona crisis is keeping Europe in suspense, the suffering of those seeking international protection and the humanitarian disaster at Europe’s borders are fading into the background. In Camp Moria on Lesbos alone, designed for a maximum of 3,000 people, over 20,000 people are currently living without adequate access to water, basic hygiene facilities and medical care. To counteract the spread of COVID-19 and its disastrous effects in good time, the people on the Greek islands must receive immediate medical assistance, and overcrowded refugee camps must immediately be evacuated. The cruise ships which are idly moored in European ports offer the best conditions for this.

Originally published by Seawatch.

Due to the Corona pandemic, leading cruise operators have already suspended their cruises until at least April. The majority of the ships offer sufficient space for several thousand people and have comparatively well-equipped medical stations. The ships provide space for measures to prevent infection, for the rapid identification of cases, as well as for the isolation and initial treatment of patients and general quarantine precautions.

Necessary quarantine and protection measures against Corona must be implemented everywhere to prevent exponential spread, including in refugee camps. This means immediate evacuation of the overcrowded Greek camps and accommodation in places where people are protected from the virus. The cruise ships can do both. We must leave no one behind“, says Sea-Watch Medic Aline Wedel, currently deployed on Lesbos.

Due to their local isolation and mobility, the cruise ships are ideally suited to quickly relieve regions such as Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros or Kos in the short time window that remains, before a catastrophic outbreak of COVID-19 can no longer be contained. The local medical infrastructure is already barely sufficient to provide for the local population and will inevitably collapse when faced with an outbreak in the camps.

“The refugees on the Greek islands, but also the local population, have been left alone by Europe long enough. Crises, in particular, show how seriously we take the often invoked notion of solidarity. If the EU Commission does not act now, the humanitarian catastrophe that is already taking place there will cost many more lives,” says Johannes Bayer, Chairman of Sea-Watch.

Sea-Watch offers the EU Commission and cruise ship operators comprehensive medical and organizational support for the implementation of a safe evacuation, including on-site in Lesbos. The organization sees the German federal government as having a special responsibility in this respect: “More than 140 German cities and municipalities have declared their willingness to take part, 40,000 free places are available in the German federal states alone. With current loans of over 8 billion euros, the German state is one of the leading financiers of cruise ships on the one side, and on the other, Germany was one of the mastermind states behind the devastation of the Greek health system in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007. Anyone who fails to ensure that people are evacuated now will be complicit in the possible death of hundreds,” said Bayer.

Over 180.000 people, including many celebrities, have already signed a call to #LeaveNoOneBehind.

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