Tuesday

5th Jul 2022

Berlin ready to airlift Greek island refugees

  • Some €55,000 has been collected to airlift people from Greece to Berlin (Photo: Spyros V. Oikonomou)

German activists have collected funds to start airlifting refugees and asylum seekers from the Greek islands to Berlin.

"If the governments say yes, we can start immediately. It is a matter of organisation with a flight broker, which means it could take two days," Axel Steier of the German NGO Mission Lifeline, told EUobserver on Tuesday (31 March).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Steier, who co-founded the NGO, says they collected €55,000 in donations following plans by city of Berlin state politicians to relocate 1,500 people or possibly more stuck on the Greek islands to the German capital.

He says German church affiliated charity organisations like Diakonie and Stadtmission Berlin have agreed to help when it comes to housing the new arrivals.

The money collected covers two flights but the NGO is seeking more donations to continue future airlifts.

"We try to finance more now so we can make an airlift between Lesbos and Berlin and if there is more money and more willing local governments we can bring more," said Steier.

Some 42,000 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are spread out across five Greek Aegean islands. Of those, around 20,000 are crammed into Moria, a camp on the island of Lesbos, and whose facilities are designed to accommodate 3,000.

Faced with deplorable conditions described as among the worst in the world when it comes to refugee camps, fears are mounting of a looming Covid-19 outbreak amid reports by Human Rights Watch that Greece is also arbitrarily detaining nearly 2,000 people on the mainland.

The urgency of the efforts to decongest the islands has since led to a new proposal by the Berlin state government to bring in the most vulnerable.

Red/Red/Green

In an interview with German media outlet Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin's justice minister Dirk Behrendt said the idea had received cross party support at the state level and that the city is ready to take in people.

"The red-red-green state government is completely on the same page," he said, in reference to party coalition colours spanning the Social Democratic Party, Left Party, and the Greens.

"If something doesn't happen very quickly at the federal level - and for me this is more a question of hours than days - then Berlin is also prepared to take its own steps together with civil society organisations and fly people out of Lesbos," he said.

He noted while Germany was able to repatriate 170,000 holiday-makers around the world in a matter of days due to the pandemic, the federal government is still dithering about on earlier pledges to relocate unaccompanied minors from Greece.

"There is apparently a reluctance in Germany because there are fears of playing into the hands of the AfD [Alternative for German, a far-right political party] with a large-scale evacuation operation," he told Tagesspiegel.

The EU had earlier this year cobbled together a plan to evacuate 1,600 unaccompanied minors in the aftermath of Turkey's failed efforts to force political concessions after opening its borders for migrants to cross into Greece.

Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and Portugal were among the first to agree to take in the minors but the proposal stalled following the outbreak of Covid-19. Some states, such as the Netherlands, have flat out refused.

"We are not willing to take over children," said Dutch migration minister Ankie Broekers-Knol earlier this month.

Coronavirus: Greek island refugees in semi-lockdown

Greece has banned large pubic gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus, while imposing a curfew on thousands of asylum seekers and migrants living in misery in overcrowded camps, with one water tap for 1,300 people at one camp.

Refugees across Europe help fight the pandemic

From the Netherlands to Italy, refugees and asylum seekers are stepping forward to help in the fight against the pandemic. Some are trained doctors, others are cleaners, while others help out the homeless on Europe's streets.

Half of refugees at German camp test Covid-19 positive

Around half of the 600 residents have tested positive for Covid-19 at the Ellwangen camp in Baden-Wurttemberg, in southern Germany. Camp residents, many of them families, are forced to share facilities with those infected as police impose a lockdown.

Opinion

How industry watered-down new EU supply chain rules

The Commission fell hook, line, and sinker for the arguments of big business on the corporate due diligence directive — conflating rules and regulations with so-called 'red tape' and rebranding regulations as 'burdens' on business which should be scrapped.

Podcast

Against white feminism: European edition

Author Rafia Zakaria turned the feminist world upside down with her bestselling book Against White Feminism. She talks with the Brussels-based journalist Shada Islam about the prevalence of white feminist thinking in Europe — particularly France.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey signs Nato protocol despite Sweden extradition row
  2. European gas production hit by Norway strike
  3. EU Commission told to step up fight against CAP fraud
  4. Ukraine needs €719bn to rebuild, says PM
  5. Germany records first monthly trade deficit since 1991
  6. Pilots from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden strike
  7. Report: EU to sign hydrogen deal with Namibia
  8. Israel and Poland to mend relations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. EU Parliament sued over secrecy on Nazi MEP expenses
  2. Italy glacier tragedy has 'everything to do' with climate change
  3. The Digital Services Act — a case-study in keeping public in dark
  4. Report slams German opposition to new child sexual abuse rules
  5. Is China a challenge to Nato? Beijing responds
  6. ECB announces major green shift in corporate bond-buying
  7. Ex-Frontex chief 'uninvited' from parliament committee
  8. Czech presidency and key nuclear/gas vote This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us