(Source: CD/Caritas Europa)

In the midst of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, Caritas Europa and the Jesuit Refugee Service Europe have joined 200 church and civil society organisations from all over Europe to call on the EU institutions and the Greek government to immediately evacuate refugee camps and hotspots on the Greek islands.

The need to relocate refugees from the overcrowded Greek islands to EU Member States is not new, and Caritas Europa has been systematically calling for this.

But the surge of COVID-19 makes evacuation even more urgent to protect the migrants, the local population and humanitarian aid workers.

More than 42,000 people are trapped on the islands in horrific conditions.

Recommended measures like social distancing or frequent hand washing are simply impossible in an environment such as the Moria camp on Lesbos where, according to Médecins Sans Frontières, there is only one water tap for the 1,300 inhabitants.

Therefore, we call on EU Member States to show leadership and solidarity with Greece and to relocate refugees from the Greek islands. Relocation should first target unaccompanied children and the most vulnerable refugees.

But ultimately, nobody should be left in such undignified conditions on the Greek islands.

We also urge the Greek government to restore access to asylum, which has been on hold since the beginning of March.

The human right to seek asylum must be respected, giving access to fair and efficient procedures, while refoulement and illegal pushbacks must stop.

Organisations and individuals are invited to join this urgent appeal: http://www.urgentletter.at/

Full text of the appeal:

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.