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24th Oct 2021

EU boosts pledges to relocate minors from Greece

  • Some 4,800 children and teenagers seeking asylum arrived in Greece without any adult relatives (Photo: Stephen Ryan / IFRC)

The European Commission says member states have pledged up to 2,000 places to host child and teenage asylum seekers from Greece.

The figure represents an increase from the original 1,600 announced earlier this year as part of a scheme to help the Mediterranean country, which is one of the major refugee and asylum seeker entry points into the European Union.

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"More than 120 children have already been relocated," Giorgos Koumoutsakos, Greece's alternate minister of asylum, told MEPs earlier this week.

Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Lithuania and Slovenia, have all agreed to help out.

Koumoutsakos also noted Norway and Serbia's willingness to take in the unaccompanied minors. Close to 5,000 unaccompanied minors in need of help are in Greece.

With the EU's new pact on migration and asylum now delayed until September, the scheme is being touted as a demonstration of solidarity among EU states.

On Wednesday (8 July), the Commission announced another 49 kids will be relocated from Greece to Finland and Portugal.

The first relocations took place in April, when a dozen children were sent to Luxembourg while 47 went to Germany.

Another six were sent to Germany end of June and eight were relocated to Ireland but as part of a separate bilateral agreement with Greece.

The whole is happening amid a backdrop of alleged pushbacks and moves by the Greek authorities to expedite asylum claims and send those rejected back home.

Greek authorities have since the start of the year transferred some 17,000 people from the Greek islands to the mainland, compared to around 7,000 for the whole of 2019.

"That is an increase of 134 percent and despite the flows I described before, we have reduced residency in the camps by 23 percent since the beginning of the year, now to 29,000 from 38,000," Notis Mitarachi, Greece's minister for migration and asylum, said earlier this week.

But the fate of those transferred to the mainland, in some cases, remains precarious. With nowhere to go, some are now reportedly living in the streets in Athens.

Furthermore, those left behind in the notorious island camps remain in Covid-19 lockdown until 19 July, despite the easing of restrictions everywhere else.

It means residents are only allowed to the leave the camps from morning until late evening, and then only in small groups.

Mitarachi also said Greece is clearing a backlog of pending asylum claims.

"We have 100,000 cases left compared to 140,000 pending at the beginning of the year," he said.

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