Unaccompanied minor refugees, who were living at the migrant camps of the islands of north Aegean Sea, wait in line before boarding an airplane at the International Airport of Athens, to travel to Luxembourg, in Athens, Greece, 15 April 2020 [Orestis Panagiotou/EPA]
A dozen unaccompanied refugee and migrant minors were flown from Greece to Luxembourg on Wednesday as part of a European Union initiative to expedite the relocation of some 1,600 over the next few months to EU member-states.
Greece is currently hosting more than 5,000 unaccompanied migrants under the age of 18, from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and the African continent, many of them at overcrowded camps on the Greek islands.
Their relocation is part of the effort to protect vulnerable groups amid heightened concerns due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), welcomed what they said was an “encouraging start in a larger effort to relocate vulnerable children from Greece in the coming weeks.”
In the same statement, the IOM’s regional director Ola Henrikson said that “the importance of this crucial initiative is amplified now due to the challenges we are all facing from Covid-19. Relocation of vulnerable children, especially at a time of heightened hardship, sends a strong message of European solidarity and we hope to see this expand soon.”
Another 58 unaccompanied minors are expected to arrive in Germany on Saturday, the German Interior Ministry announced Wednesday, noting that it will receive a total of at least 350 children.
It said they will be initially housed in Lower Saxony, where they will remain in quarantine for two weeks, as required by the measures in place to contain the spread of Covid-19, before they are sent to various German states.
Another 20 minors are also expected to be transferred from Greece to Switzerland in the coming weeks.