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The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Greece: A Retrospective Analysis of National Surveillance Data (Feb-Nov 2020)
17 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021More...
Background: Migrants globally have experienced adverse clinical and socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For approximately 56,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Reception and Identification Centres (RICs) and Reception Sites (RS) in Greece, living in severely substandard living conditions, prevention measures have been impossible with limited provision in terms of routine testing, surveillance, and access to healthcare. These migrant populations have experienced prolonged lockdowns and restricted movement since the pandemic began. We aimed to assess the impact of COVID-19 on migrants residing in reception facilities in Greece and explore implications for policy and practice.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of policy documents and national surveillance data was conducted to identify COVID-19 outbreaks and estimate incidence among asylum seekers and refugees residing in these camps during the first 9 months of the epidemic in Greece (26th Feb - 15th Nov 2020). Incidence proportion (IP) of COVID-19 confirmed cases was calculated for three population groups (migrant populations in RICs, migrant populations in RSs, and the general population in Greece) during three time periods (first wave, second wave, and overall across the 9-month period).
Findings: Twenty-five COVID-19 outbreaks were identified in migrant reception facilities, with 6 (85.7%) of 7 RICs and 18 (56.3%) of 32 RSs reporting at least one outbreak during the study period. The overall 9-month COVID-19 IP among refugee and asylum seeker populations residing in RSs on the Greek mainland was 1,758 cases per 100,000 population; in RICs the incidence was 2,052 cases per 100,000 population. Compared to the general population the risk of COVID-19 infection among migrants in reception facilities was 2.5 to 3 times higher; the risk of acquiring COVID-19 infection was higher among migrant populations in RSs on the Greek mainland (IP ratio: 2.45; 95% CI: 2.25-2.68) but higher still among migrant populations in RICs in the Greek islands and the land border with Turkey (IP ratio: 2.86; 95% CI: 2.64-3.10), where living conditions are particularly poor.
Interpretation: We identified high levels of COVID-19 transmission among migrants in reception facilities in Greece. The risk of infection among these enclosed population groups has been significantly higher than the general population of Greece, and risk increases as living conditions deteriorate. These data have immediate implications for policy and practice. Strategies are now needed to ensure refugee and asylum seeker populations are included in national response plans to reduce transmission in at-risk groups for COVID-19, alongside inclusion in plans for COVID-19 vaccine roll out.
Funding: No funding was received for this piece of research.
Declaration of Interests: MO is Executive Director of Lancet Migration: global collaboration to advance migration health. All other authors declare no conflicts of interest.
Ethics Approval Statement: No ethics approval was required, as al the data sources are anonymous and freely available online.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation