Some Germans Willing to Take Greece’s Unaccompanied Minor Refugees

December 27, 2019

BERLIN – After taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants, Germany has closed its borders to them but at least one region there said it would welcome unaccompanied children languishing in Greece’s detention centers and camps.

A spokesman for the Education and Youth Ministry in the eastern state of Thuringia told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA )news agency it was prepared to take in some of the children, even if the government in Berlin refused — though it would prefer a “coordinated aid operation directed by the Federal Interior Ministry.”

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has already rejected calls to help Greece, which has been left mostly on its own by the European Union despite being overwhelmed with more than 96,000 refugees and migrants, most seeking asylum.

The governments of three German states — Thuringia, Berlin, and Lower Saxony — wrote a letter to Seehofer in early December, urging him to help although he won’t, and another site, Baden-Wurttemberg, has also said it would be prepared to take people in.

Lower Saxony’s Interior Minister Boris Pistorius, told the Tagesspiegel newspaper othey had received no answer from the Federal government.

“I was in Lesbos in early November,” he told the paperr about the notorious Moria detention camp there that’s holding more than 20,000 people in a facility built forabout 2,000. “I saw hundreds of unaccompanied minors living outside the Moria camp in the mud in the olive groves, in tents made of garbage bags,” he said.

“I appeal now urgently to the federal interior minister to allow the willing states permission to take in young refugees,” he said. “We cannot watch this misery any longer without doing anything.”

Hundreds of unaccompanied children are living in “inhuman and degrading” conditions on Lesbos, putting their mental and physical well-being at risk, an international human rights organization said earlier.

Human Rights Watch researchers visited the Moria camp in mid-October and interviewed 22 of the 1,061 unaccompanied children who were registered there at the time. The children they interviewed, the youngest of whom were age 14, described having little or no access to care and specialized services.

The camp on the Aegean Sea island has a separate section for minors who arrived without adult guardians. Because of overcrowding, most of the children Human Rights Watch interviewed were living either among Moria’s general population or just outside the camp in an olive grove where migrants and refugees have set up their own tents.

“Hundreds of lone children on Lesbos are left to fend for themselves, sleeping on mats and cardboard boxes, exposed to worsening and dangerous weather conditions,” Human Rights Watch quoted its Greece researcher, Eva Cosse, as saying in a statement. “The Greek authorities need to urgently make sure these children are safe and cared for.”

The organization said most of the children interviewed reported suffering from anxiety, depression, insomnia and headaches.

Iris Pandiri, a social worker with the non-governmental organizations Arsis Association for the Social Support of Youth, said figures showed about 5,300 unaccompanied children were in Greece by the end of November, of which only 1,932 were in specialized housing for lone children.

The European Commission had urged Germany to accept children from overcrowded migrant camps in Greece.

“The Commission is concerned about the difficult situation for unaccompanied minors on the ground in Greece and remains in close contact with the Greek authorities, notably as concerns the situation on the heavily overcrowded islands and the very challenging situation in the hotspots,” a spokesman told DPA.

“In particular as regards the more than 5,000 unaccompanied minors, the Commission has repeatedly called upon the member states to continue relocating from Greece on a voluntary basis, with funds provided by the Commission,” the spokesman added.

“The political initiative launched to this end by Greece in October, which the Commission supports, remained so far with limited response by the member states,” it was added.

The erman Greens Party called on the ruling coalition to accept children from the migrant and refugee camps in Greece. Greens party leader Robert Habeck told Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper that children were living in intolerable conditions even now.


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