BFF-30 Germany to take up to 500 children from Greek camps

426

ZCZC

BFF-30

HEALTH-VIRUS-GERMANY

Germany to take up to 500 children from Greek camps

BERLIN, April 8, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Germany will welcome up to 500
unaccompanied minors from Greek migrant camps in the coming weeks, Foreign
Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday, while urging other EU countries to follow
suit.

“We said (to the Greek authorities and the UN High Commissioner for
Refugees) that we want to take in between 350 and 500 children in the next
few weeks,” Maas said in an interview with the RTL/ntv broadcaster.

The minister said he hoped other countries would also take in young
migrants. “We want to set an example here.”

The German cabinet on Wednesday agreed to initially accept 50 children from
overcrowded camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios.

The “unaccompanied minors under the age of 14” will be placed in quarantine
for two weeks in the state of Lower Saxony before relocating to different
regions of the country, according to a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

A test for the new coronavirus will also be carried out no more than three
days before their arrival in Germany.

Transfers from the migrant camps could begin next week, an Interior
Ministry statement said Tuesday.

Tens of thousands of asylum-seekers live in dire circumstances in Greek
camps, and conditions have worsened recently due to outbreaks of the
coronavirus.

Ten European countries have agreed to participate in an EU programme
announced at the beginning of March to take in some of the 1,600 vulnerable
minors in Greek camps.

However, most have yet to take any concrete action, with border
restrictions imposed by the coronavirus crisis complicating the situation.

German Development Minister Gerd Mueller has called the camps a “disgrace”,
and urged Brussels to act to avert a “catastrophe”.

“Apart from Luxembourg, we are the only ones who are still willing to
accept minors,” Maas said Wednesday.

Luxembourg has agreed to take in 12 minors.

Other countries that said they would participate are Belgium, Bulgaria,
Croatia, Finland, France, Ireland, Lithuania and Portugal.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has also called for more
action.

“In recent weeks we have flown 300,000 EU citizens back to the European
Union from all over the world because of the virus outbreak. Surely it should
be possible to get several thousand young people out of Greece for
humanitarian reasons,” he said in an interview with German broadcaster RND.

Claudia Roth, a German Green party politician and vice-president of the
Bundestag, told news agency DPA that the government decision to accept 50
minors was “long overdue and just a drop in the ocean”.

German NGO Pro Asyl, meanwhile, said the plan was “completely insufficient”
and called for the camps to be evacuated immediately.

BSS/AFP/MRU/2128hrs