Asylum Centers Become Coronavirus Hotspot in Germany

  • "Patients talk to their friends in the non-infected section on the other side of the fence or to guards from a short distance without a mask."
  • Some have complained that the camp's bathrooms are still shared.
  • This is not the first case in which a rapid spread of the newly created Coronavirus is observed inside a refugee hostel.

“The situation is very bad,” Farhad, an Afghan refugee, describes the atmosphere at the refugee reception center in Sankt Augustin, western Germany. Since news spread about the infections of 165 people residing in this center, anxiety has become the master of the atmosphere in the center, he says.

Data released by Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in January 2016 showed that Germany received 476,649 asylum applications in 2015, mainly from Syrians (162,510), Albanians (54,762), Kosovars (37,095), Afghans (31,902), Iraqis (31,379), Serbians (26,945), Macedonians (14,131), Eritreans (10,990) and Pakistanis (8,472).

“There were cases that were transferred to the health care unit, and the healthy refugees were separated from the patients.” Last week, refugees brought the infection to the center where about 500 people reside. Since that time, refugees have been examined at the center, and the infected have been isolated, but this has not prevented the virus from spreading,

According to a spokesperson for the refugee center, measures were taken to isolate the infected and the healthy, and the external places were separated between the two groups. The spokesperson explained that meals are currently being eaten in the rooms.

Farhad says he believes that the number of infected people is higher than what the authorities say, and the Afghan refugee whose asylum application was rejected has criticized the health procedures applied in the shelter, describing them as insufficient.

“There is only one iron fence between people with the virus and people who are not infected,” Farhad says. “Patients talk to their friends in the non-infected section on the other side of the fence or to guards from a short distance without a mask.”

Shared Facilities

Although the camp’s dining hall has been closed since the virus spread and refugees have access to ready-to-eat food, some have complained that the camp’s bathrooms are still shared. Farhad confirms that many of the asylum seekers at the center have also lost their spirits.

“Many people were shouting today that they were in pain. Some had fever and chills, but no one gave them medicine.” The Afghan refugee affirms his desire to leave the refugee shelter center for fear of infection, but he has no other place to go.

Unlike Farhad, another Afghan refugee, Javad, was able to leave the center and go to his relatives for fear of infection, he told Muhajir News. While the quarantine was imposed on those who tested positive, preventing them from moving around or leaving, some other refugees, whose results showed that they were negative, could choose between staying and going.

However, Javad says he is obliged to go to the refugee reception centers to prove his presence and obtain the pocket money that is distributed weekly to the residents of the center.

Hotspots in Asylum Centers

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic spread to Germany on 27 January 2020, when the first case was confirmed and contained near Munich, Bavaria. As of 24 May 2020, Germany has reported 180,328 cases, 8,367 deaths and approximately 160,300 recoveries.

It is noteworthy that this is not the first case in which a rapid spread of the newly created Coronavirus is observed inside a refugee hostel. It has been shown that the virus has spread rapidly in two centers in North Rhine-Westphalia, with 50 cases in one and 30 cases in the other.

A shelter center in Mainz, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, also announced that a family of ten, and four others, including a child, had been infected with the Coronavirus. This forced the center to impose a quarantine on the remaining 113 refugees there until the completion of the medical examinations.

A Syrian refugee, “Walid” (name changed), his wife, and three daughters were infected with the Coronavirus in a refugee center where he lives near Bonn. He says:

“There have been cases of illness in the refugee house where my family and I live, which required urgent medical intervention, and after a procedure, the necessary examinations show that my wife and three daughters were infected with the virus, which required my separation from them and my dispatch to another center.”

On his feelings the moment he learned his wife and daughters were ill, “Walid” said that he and his family had suffered a nervous breakdown, as he believed it was the end. “Walid” criticized the lack of a specialized interpreter or psychologist in order to truly educate the refugees.

The matter is clear and he explains, “I do not master the German language, and I tried hard to know the rules to follow in order to prevent infections.” The Syrian refugee called on the German government not to lose sight of the psychological aspect of treatment, stressing the difficulty of dealing with this matter.

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Doris Mkwaya

I am a journalist, with more than 12 years of experience as a reporter, author, editor, and journalism lecturer." I've worked as a reporter, editor and journalism lecturer, and am very enthusiastic about bringing what I've learned to this site.  

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