A group of 47 unaccompanied children evacuated from refugee camps in Greece landed in Germany on Saturday, German officials said.
The Interior Ministry said the minors landed in Hanover on a flight from Athens. They were all tested for the coronavirus before departure and will remain in two-week quarantine before moving on to other German states
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.
Some of them have families waiting for them in Germany.
They were previously housed in refugee camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos and Chios that have been criticized as unsuitable for children by human rights activists.
“The Greek government has been trying to sensitize other EU countries to (the plight) of the young children, who have fled war and persecution, to find new families and start a new life. I’m glad this program is finally being implemented,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotsakis told reporters at the Athens airport, where he met the departing children, alongside the German ambassador to Greece, Ernst Reichel.
Mitsotakis added that he hoped over 1,500 minors would be relocated over the next months.
Germany pledged last month to take in at least 350 children living in Greek refugee camps as part of a joint European effort, but the plan has stalled in some countries due to the pandemic.
“Greece will continue to treat all … 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 traveled 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.”