Today, the first relocations of unaccompanied migrant children from the Greek islands have taken place. 12 children are being relocated to Luxembourg as part of a scheme organised by the Commission and the Greek authorities, with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), to help address overcrowding in the reception centres in Greece. This is the first in a number of relocation exercises currently underway. The next operation will take place this weekend as around 50 people will be relocated to Germany.
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas said: “This scheme is Europe at its best. In times where coronavirus is taking its toll on everyday life, it is commendable to see Member States honouring their commitments and working together to help vulnerable migrants on the Greek islands. I am grateful to Member States participating in the scheme and hopeful that more will continue to join us.”
Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said:”Today 12 migrant children will start a new life in Luxembourg. This is just a first step. The situation on the Greek islands has been critical for far too long. I am happy we are working together as Europeans to address it and find a safe place at least for the most vulnerable. Our efforts continue with more relocations planned for the coming days and weeks.”
Greek Alternate Minister of Migration Policy Giorgos Koumoutsakos said: “Today, 12 unaccompanied minors swept onto the Greek Aegean islands by the waves of migration are departing to be relocated in the heart of the Europe. Luxembourg – a firm friend of Greece and staunch supporter of European Union – is the first country to actively respond to the Greek government’s initiative calling on its European partners to accept unaccompanied minors from Greece. Brussels and Luxembourg worked really hard. I wanted to express my gratitude to the UNHCR and the European Commission and especially I want to thank one of its driving forces Commissioner Ylva Johansson”.
In March, the Commission announced a specific initiative to relocate unaccompanied children and teenagers from Greece to other Member States. So far, Member States have pledged 1,600 places. The initiative is focused primarily on unaccompanied minors, but may also include children with their families with particular vulnerabilities.
To date, ten Member States: Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg and Lithuania, as well as Switzerland, are part of the initiative.