COVID19 in Ritsona

Letter to the world from Ritsona (No:4)

Author:Parwana Amiri

Public safety or mass extinction?

Here we are in the Ritsona refugee camp, located 70 kilometers north of Athens, constructed to house vulnerabe refugees. Ever since the outbreak of the Corona virus epidemic, however, the color and spirit of the camp have changed dramatically.

As the whole world is facing this terrible pandemic, the Ritsona refugee camp is where the first positive case of the virus, among the refugees in Greece, occured. As a result, we are now in a 14-day quaratine!

But …

What does quarantine mean in a refugee camp?

When we hear the word quarantine, the first thing that comes to mind is being locked down in a specific place, for a specific length of time, with a specific objective: to stay away from infected people who can put our lives in danger and to prevent ourselves from putting the lives of others in danger.

But, what is the reality of a quarantine for those living in a camp?

Right now, the authorities have put the Ritsona refugee camp in a 14-day quarantine. We are told that the purpose of the quarantine is to keep the residents safe from Corona virus ( Covid-19). How is this possible? How will we be safe while there are 23 confirmed cases among us, who have not been isolated yet? How will we be safe when we are in close contact with each other everyday and without any protection equipments?

When the general testing will finally start, authorities will face a massive infection. Don’t they understand that? Distribution of dry foods and hygiene packages will have served nothing, as long as we are spreading the virus among ourselves and are expected to stay silent and locked down without the possibility to keep the necessary distance from each other.

photo by :Parwana amiri

It seems that people, all over the world, manage to have access to their necessaties during the Corona virus crisis, even, in some cases, before the lockdown. On the contrary, here in the Ritsona refugee camp, we can not obtain what is necessary for our survival. Given, the high number of vulnerabe people inside, medicine is the first necessity. Yet it is lacking.

Stop pretending that we are safe inside the camps, until we get the virus that is spreading among us! We understand that the Corona virus is challenging you in many ways. Not only do you have to protect the national population, you must also guard the safety of people in the camps. Unfortunately, we feel that you don’t do the second enough. What can we think about our worth while we are obviously treated differently from the rest of the people? What are you waiting for? The alarm is sounding loud and clear. There is not an hour to wait longer. Are you waiting until everybody will be infected by the virus? Then, there will be no chance to isolate, in any space, all the infected ones.

When all health care organizations insist that, in order to decrease the number of infections, protection measures should be observed, most important among them, keeping adequate distance from each other. But, how can follow these measures, living close to each other, not knowing who is infected, our children playing together without defence? More than any time before, the world is learning that all are equal in front of the epidemic, equally insecure, equally vulnerable. And yet, we are not equal in the treatment we get.

Had the authorities tested people earlier, we would not have 7 more cases out of the 90 people tested from three different communities. As soon as the first infection in the first community was detected, everyone should have been tested, and those positive isolated from all others.

It depends on you, it depends on us, who will win this fight.This is not only a medical challenge. It is a social challenge too. It is a challenge between solidarity and heartless exclusion.

People are in panic, in the Ritsona camp. What could be more normal, when we fear that any time we may get infectred by the virus. It is time to find the only logical solution: camps are not stables to keep refugees inside and lock them down there! When we are a population of vulnerables people, we will get infected earlier than those healthier, stronger than us. What can the meaning of quarantine be when you keep us all together with those who have, already, been infected?