The first group of unaccompanied refugee children was relocated from Greek islands, the European Commission said Wednesday.
Twelve children between the ages of 11 and 15 were taken from Lesvos, Samos and Chios to Luxemburg, and 50 more will be transferred to Germany this coming weekend.
Greece says there are 42,000 asylum-seekers on its islands, of which 1,500 are children.
To ease pressure on Greek authorities, the European Commission in early Mach opened a relocation program for minors who had been stranded in camps on the islands.
Ten EU members, and Switzerland, responded to the Commission’s call.
The eleven countries pledged to relocate 1,600 asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors and families in a fragile situation.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted the program, but Luxemburg gave the green light last week after Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn and Greek Minister of Migration Policy Giorgos Koumoutsakos had a telephone discussion.
The decision was meant to support Greek authorities “facing in particular the risk of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in overcrowded refugee camps,” Luxemburg’s government explained in a statement Wednesday.
“In times where coronavirus is taking its toll on everyday life, it is commendable to see Member States honoring their commitments and working together to help vulnerable migrants on the Greek islands,” EU Commissioner for Promoting our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas said as 12 children arrived in Luxemburg.
Greece imposed a curfew on migrants living in Lesvos’ Moria refugee camp in March.
The Ritsona refugee camp near Athens was placed under lockdown two weeks ago after 20 residents tested positive for coronavirus.
Human Rights Watch launched a campaign Tuesday to secure the release of hundreds of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Greece.
According to the #FreeTheKids campaign, at least 331 children are under police custody waiting for transfer to a shelter.
Greek authorities call the measures protective custody.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.