Forty-seven unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors were relocated from Greece to Germany Saturday.
Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said the evacuation was “the result of months of preparation and intense talks with our European partners" and expressed hope that other countries would also begin taking in refugee children soon.
The children come from Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea. Four are girls and there are several siblings among the group.
“The Greek government has been trying to sensitize other EU countries to (the plight) of the young children, which have fled war and persecution, to find new families and start a new life. I’m glad this program is finally being implemented,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotsakis told reporters at the Athens airport, where he met the departing children, alongside Germany’s Ambassador to Greece, Ernst Reichel.
Mitsotakis added that he hopes that over 1,500 minors will be relocated over the next months.
“Greece will continue to treat all persecuted people that arrive in our country with great sensitivity. But, at the same time, it has the obligation to guard and protect its borders. We have proven, as a country, that we can do both,” Mitsotakis said.
This was the second flight taking unaccompanied minor refugees to another European country. On Wednesday, 12 children travelled to Luxembourg.
According to the United Nations Secretary-General’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, there were over 5,200 unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors in Greece in early April “in urgent need of durable solutions, including expedited registration, family reunification and relocation” Dujarric said earlier this week.
Eight EU countries have agreed to take up 1,600 of those children, ages 5-16, who now live in migrant camps on the islands of Chios, Lesvos and Samos. Germany pledged last month to take in at least 350 children, but the plan has stalled in some countries due to the coronavirus pandemic.