Highlight 5/2023 – The People Left Behind
Maxine Moreau, 27 January 2023
People are so distracted with COVID-19 affecting their everyday lifestyle that they do not think about the individuals who were already fighting for their lives and basic human rights even before the pandemic started.
The impact of COVID-19 on the refugee camp settlements in Greece and specifically with the Moria refugee camp in Lesbos have been completely negative rendering the already harsh living conditions even worse. Instead of the pandemic bringing more attention to the deteriorating refugee camps, it has brought less attention with the withdrawal of the limited funds and aid to these refugee camps. Many state institutions and governments, like Greece and Turkey, have used COVID-19 as an excuse to fulfill their xenophobic agenda and diminish refugees and asylum seekers of their basic human rights and even put them in detention camps. A concerning case is the Moria refugee camp where a study was conducted into the Greek government’s use of the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse for the denial of basic human rights to the refugees residing in such camps and their ignorant xenophobic agendas.
Comparing the situation in refugee camps pre-pandemic, during the pandemic and post-pandemic, it remains dire and has not gotten any better. Most camps have not changed with the persistence of their harsh living conditions and those that did change, changed for the worse with the increase in the refugees accommodated beyond the capacity that these camps were built to sustain. With a failing to non-existent hygiene system, these overcrowded refugee camps become a hotspot for the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
After assessing the situation in the refugee camps, humanitarians and scholars have warned governments of countries that have refugee camps that COVID-19 will cause a bigger problem affecting the people in the refugee camps as well as those around them, which could exacerbate its spread. The pandemic has made people distracted from, if not blinded to, the realities of those that were already fighting for their lives before the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unfortunate to observe that asylum seekers and refugees are among the people left behind, whilst in vulnerable situations they are left exposed which places their security even more at risk.
International organisations and governance mechanisms must do more to address these vulnerabilities so that leaving no one behind becomes a reality rather than confined to rhetoric. Not only do we need to call out and condemn xenophobic agendas, we must continue to focus on the funding for humanitarian aid and the organization of these refugee camps. We must also increase the refugees’ access to basic needs such as healthcare and a sanitary camp. To truly leave no one behind, we must improve and increase our quality in aid to refugee camps regardless of the pandemic.
Maxine Moreau, Highlight 5/2023 – The People Left Behind, 27 January 2023, available at www.meig.ch
The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the authors and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.