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Calais migrants vulnerable to coronavirus, say campaigners

12 March 2020

President Trump suspends travel to the US from 26 European countries as cases rise


Tents belonging to refugees at a camp near Calais, France, last month

Tents belonging to refugees at a camp near Calais, France, last month

PEOPLE NOT WALLS, an initiative backed by the diocese of Canterbury, has expressed concern for migrants in Calais who, it says, are vulnerable to coronavirus because of unsanitary conditions and a lack of washing facilities.

France has the second highest number of infections in Europe after Italy. On Sunday alone, 1126 cases were reported, including two more members of the National Assembly. Gatherings of more than 1000 people have been banned. Cases in Germany and Spain also doubled over the weekend.

A statement from People not Walls on Wednesday said: “There are already a few confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Nord Pas de Calais region. . . We are concerned that the number of viral infections may get out of control in an unprotected environment. The worsening conditions in Greece and Turkey have led the associations which support the exiles to forecast an increase in their number in the coming weeks.”

Conditions in the camps — cold, humidity, stress, fatigue, overcrowding in light tents, and a lack of clean, dry clothing — “favour the onset and spread of infectious diseases”, including coronavirus, which could affect people who are already sick.

The Acting Coordinator of People not Walls, Barbara Kentish, said: “We are very concerned that, given the rapid spread of this virus, migrants who sleep mainly outdoors and without sanitation are at great risk. We call on the French authorities to take the necessary precautions, not only for migrants, but also for those who try as far as possible to provide them with basic aid every day.”

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