İrem UZUN -TDO- Turkey has closed its rail and land border with Greece and Bulgaria over the new coronavirus fear, after Ankara opened the gates for refugees heading to Europe. "The land and rail border gates will be closed to exits and entries” as ordered by a circular issued by the interior ministry, the private Dogan news agency reported.
Greece, on the other hand, has imposed restrictions on the movement of refugees and migrants living in overcrowded camps on its islands to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Over the next 30 days, people living in camps will be allowed to temporarily exit the facilities only in small groups, every hour between 7am and 7pm (05:00-17:00 GMT), to obtain food and supplies from nearby towns and villages, the migration ministry said on Wednesday. Only one person from each family will be allowed to leave the camps.
Greece had already banned new arrivals at camps since March 1. Refugees and migrants who reached its shores after that date will be transferred to the mainland in the coming days. Visitors are not allowed in, either, the ministry said. Greece has so far registered five deaths and has confirmed 387 cases of COVID-19, including one on the island of Lesbos, where the overcrowded Moria camp operates. But in Moria, where some 20,000 people are already stuck in a camp designed for 3,000, the move comes amid heightened fears of an outbreak.
Peter Casaer of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), speaking to EUobserver over the phone from Moria, said the plans to contain refugees in camp could provoke violence. "We have some doubts. This might incite acts of violence, we don't know yet," he said, noting the government plans were broadcast in several languages over loudspeakers throughout the camp. Also last week, MSF urged Greece to immediately evacuate refugees and migrants from the camps due to a high risk of the coronavirus spreading swiftly among people living in overcrowded and squalid conditions.