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REFUGEES stranded in northern France are “more afraid of starving than they are of Covid-19,” a charity said today as it called for urgent support.
About 3,000 asylum-seekers are believed to be living around Calais and Dunkirk but are struggling to survive after many charities, including those providing hot meals, were forced to pull out due to the outbreak.
Care4Calais, one of the groups still working in the area, has overhauled its operations in order to give out food parcels rather than its usual distributions of toiletries and clothes.
“The food stopped, and they didn’t know what was going to happen,” founder Claire Moseley told the Morning Star.
“I’ve heard some refugees saying that they are more afraid of starving than the virus.”
Many refugees in the area live outside, in crowded sites without running water. Ms Moseley says the conditions are “the worst possible” for spreading the virus.
There have already been two cases of Covid-19 among the refugee community in Calais.
The French government has said it will move asylum-seekers into accommodation, but Ms Moseley says that only 80 people have been transferred from Calais and 30 from Dunkirk.
The outbreak has put huge challenges on non-governmental organisations in Europe.
Help Refugees, which works in northern France and Greece, says its staff are working “day in and day out” to try and prevent an outbreak in one of the camps.
“Working with additional safety measures in place, and often with a skeleton-staff, tens of thousands of hygiene items have been distributed, additional wash facilities installed, isolation units built, tons of rubbish removed, vital healthcare provided, and information and advice provided to camp residents,” said Help Refugees CEO Josie Naughton.
But the group stressed that a lot more needs to be done and has launched an emergency appeal.
Ms Moseley appealed for urgent support, saying that she doesn’t know how long the group, which has just seven volunteers, can sustain its operations.
“We are working flat-out. But we can’t do that without the support of people back home.”
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