EU relocates asylum seekers from Greece, Cyprus
Nearly 100 vulnerable asylum seekers including minors have been relocated from Greece and Cyprus to Germany and Finland, the EU’s asylum coordination agency said Wednesday.
At the same time, Greece’s migration ministry announced that it had activated a scheme to voluntarily repatriate 5,000 asylum seekers to try to alleviate pressure on the badly overcrowded migrant camps on its Aegean islands.
The European Asylum Support Office said in a statement that 83 people from families with seriously ill children had been relocated from Greece to Germany on July 24.
In addition, 16 Somalis and Congolese from single-parent families were relocated from Cyprus to Finland on July 27.
In both cases, all were tested for COVID-19 before leaving Cyprus and Greece, EASO said.
The programme is supported by the European Commission, the UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration.
Greece has some 5,000 migrant minors, most of them living in unsanitary conditions in refugee camps, or in housing not suitable for them.
Tens of thousands of asylum seekers have been blocked in Greece since 2016 when many European states shut their borders in response to a surge in migration and refugees, mainly from war-torn Syria.
Around a dozen European countries have agreed to make an exception for minors.
A small number have already relocated to Portugal, Luxembourg and Germany.
Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Serbia and Switzerland have agreed to welcome some as well.
Greek authorities have kept island camps under coronavirus lockdown since March, prompting criticism from rights groups.
According to the UN refugee agency, there are now around 120,000 in the country.
More than 26,000 live in camps on the five Aegean islands, originally built to handle just 6,095 people.
The Greek migration ministry said it had begun an EU-funded scheme to voluntarily repatriate 5,000 asylum seekers, offering each application 2,000 euros ($2,300) to return home.
The scheme had been announced in March but was inactive until now because of the coronavirus pandemic, it said.
Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said the first flights are likely to begin in weeks.