Charity raises concerns over coronavirus in refugee camp

Oxfam Scotland says the virus could prove catastrophic for asylum seekers.

Oxfam Scotland says coronavirus could be catastrophic for people in places hit by conflicts, such as Yemen, Syria and South Sudan.

While the standards for camps are agreed by agencies responding to humanitarian crises, Jamie Livingstone, head of the charity, suggests they cannot cope with a global pandemic.

Mr Livingstone said: “Across Scotland and the rest of the UK, our lives and livelihoods have been severely affected by coronavirus as we all restrict our behaviour to help stop its spread.

“Whether here in Scotland or around the world, coronavirus is an unprecedented threat to those living in poverty, and those who risk being dragged into it because of its impact on people’s incomes.

“It’s hard to look beyond our own walls when for many people it may feel like they’re closing in around us. But it’s clear that the virus doesn’t respect town, city, region or national borders.

“For many of the world’s most vulnerable, basic preventive measures like staying at home or washing hands more frequently are simply impossible.

“We also know that women are hit hardest by emergencies, and women carry the bulk of caring responsibilities, making them even more vulnerable to exposure to this virus.”

He continued “As we together come to terms with the terrible and devastating impact, we must also turn our attention to the action needed to protect the people facing heightened risk and those who are least able to cope in this global pandemic.”

“Leadership needs to extend beyond our borders – not least because a truly global response is needed to bring the virus under control. – Jamie Livingstone, Oxfam Scotland

In the case of the Rohingya refugee camp at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, there are 40,000 people per square kilometre despite the standards stating there should be one tap for no more than 250 people and 3.5 square metres of living space per person.

Elsewhere, the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos was built for 3,000 people but now hosts nearly 20,000 people.

Up to 160 people use the same toilet and there are more than 500 people per shower.

In some parts of the camp, 325 people share one tap without soap, while 15 to 20 people can be living in a single shipping container.

Mr Livingstone added: “Our political leaders are rightly focused on preventing the spread of the virus and helping people here in Scotland and across the UK.

“But this is a truly global threat and we cannot stand by and watch this virus devastate the lives of the world’s most vulnerable.

“Leadership needs to extend beyond our borders – not least because a truly global response is needed to bring the virus under control.

“This can be shown in helping to ensure the UN appeal is fully funded, and in actively supporting the call for a global ceasefire to help countries in conflict deal with the threat of coronavirus.

“When it comes to coronavirus, nobody is safe until everybody is safe.” 

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code