Migrants, refugees in Greece produce face masks to help in fight against Coronavirus pandemic

London, April 12, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Migration has been a hot button issue in Greece ever since the 2015 refugee crisis. The Mediterranean country was among the hardest hit by waves of migrants coming from the Middle East and Africa, alongside Italy.


Currently, Greece hosts tens of thousands of refugees with more and more arriving either by boat or, more rarely, by foot from Turkey. Large numbers of Greece’s migrants are being placed in camps around the country and its islands – with the biggest concentration being on the island of Lesbos.

Migrants from the Moria camp in Lesbos, Greece, sew handmade protective masks. Photograph: Elias Marcou/Reuters And it is precisely in the infamous Moria camp, Lesbos, Greece, where many migrants have taken upon themselves to help the country that they have arrived in. Namely, by sewing masks and providing them not only to locals but also the Greek healthcare department and its many medical workers who are constantly facing danger when dealing with patients infected with COVID-19.

Alizadah is one of the residents who have come together to create an awareness team. “The only thing that can control the virus here is the management of people and making them aware,” he said.

Over 100,000 people have died and more than a million cases of coronavirus have been registered globally,The members of the team are a snapshot of the diverse population of Moria, heralding from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and the Congo region, each dispensing advice to their own communities. The team has already swelled to 50 people, with more joining by the day. Megaphones are being distributed to help spread the word about the importance of hygiene and washing.

Due to high demand, face masks are currently in short supply in pharmacies in the local town of Mytilene, and since there is no current mass distribution of masks to the camp, industrious Moria residents have come up with their own solution.

In a small building around a kilometre from Moria, a group of four Afghan women have volunteered their time to sew face masks for the camp’s population and other frontline health workers. Stand By Me Lesvos, a Greek NGO, realised that they could make use of the sewing machines from a previous project.

“It was set up within six hours on Friday,” said Mixalis Avialotis from Stand By Me Lesvos. “One of the Afghan women used to be a tailor in Kabul and said she’d have no problem managing the operation.”

The women are working at a rapid rate and in their first day made approximately 500 masks, which are fashioned from cotton fabric bought from local shops. The masks are then packaged into plastic wrappers purchased from the local Lidl supermarket and boxed to be brought to the camp. The masks, which will be given out for free, will initially only be distributed to camp residents who start to feel unwell or exhibit symptoms of the virus, such as a cough.

Once worn, the masks will then be boiled and sterilised so that, if necessary, they can be reused.

Avialotis estimates that they have now made around 1,500 masks and said that social distancing and other Covid-19-mitigating measures have also been implemented inside the factory.“

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