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'Migrant camps in Greek islands unfit for pregnant'28 May 2020

Human Rights Watch says dire conditions for pregnant putting them at risk amid COVID-19 pandemic

Pregnant people are living under dire conditions in overcrowded reception centers for migrants in the Greek islands, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

COVID-19 pandemic conditions have already worsened for pregnant people in the overcrowded camps, although the Greek government had pledged on April to transfer some migrants to the Greek mainland.

Pyli reception center in the eastern Aegean island of Kos currently holds nearly three times its capacity, the Human Rights Watch said.

As of May 25, nearly 33,000 people were living in sites like Pyli, with a capacity of only 6,000, noted the rights group.

“Conditions are ripe for spread of #Covid19 - cramped, lacking water for proper hygiene, minimal health care, inability to observe social distancing or self-isolation - making it impossible for pregnant people & others to take needed precautions,” Hillary Margolis, a senior researcher at the Women's Rights Division of the watchdog, said.

On May 14, the European Court of Human Rights had urged Greece to guarantee the health care and living conditions for one pregnant woman living in Pyli reception center.

Margolis said the Greek government was not meeting international standards for health care, nutrition and bedding for migrant pregnant people and new mothers even before the pandemic.

“Pregnant women in Moria on Lesbos told me they slept in overcrowded tents on ground lined with thin mats or blankets, struggled to reach toilets over rough terrain, & returned to these conditions days after caesarean births, Margolis said.

Although the government has lifted lockdown measures in the country, the measures are not the same for migrants and refugees where lockdown has been extended until June 7, the rights group said.

With no grounds to support such restriction, the Human Rights Watch said: “These restrictions have no such grounding. By May 11, 2,726 Covid-19 cases and 151 deaths have been reported in Greece. This includes 11 cases in the local population on the islands hosting asylum seekers, according to media reports. No cases have yet been identified in the island camps.“

The rights group urges Greece to not only implement the European Court's order for the pregnant woman in Pyli but also to guarantee humane living conditions for all pregnant people in the reception centers.

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