While the European Union has closed its borders to refugees and migrants, dumping the problem largely on Greece, which is holding more than 100,000 cities in 10 countries said they're willing to accept accompanied migrant children living in overcrowded camps and centers during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
They include Amsterdam, Barcelona and Leipzig whose leaders have written to EU leaders about what they called a worsening humanitarian crisis in Greece after Luxeumbourg and Germany agreed to accept a handful of lone minors.
“We can provide these children with what they now so urgently need: to get out of there, to have a home, to be safe, to have access to medical care and to be looked after by dedicated people,” the letter stated, the British newspaper The Guardian reported.
But city officials can't take in the children unless their national governments agree and seven so far have refused after many earlier reneged on pledges to take in refugees and migrants and with the EU refusing to make them or go to court to force it.
Rutger Groot Wassink, Amsterdam’s Deputy Mayor for Social Affairs, said it was disappointing his country won't take part in an EU relocation scheme. He believes Dutch cities could house 500 children, with “30-35, maybe 40 children” being brought to Amsterdam, the paper said.
“It’s not that we can send a plane in and pick them up, because you need the permission of the national government. But we feel we are putting pressure on our national government, which has been reluctant to move on this issue,” he said.
“It might have something to do with the political situation in the Netherlands, where there is a huge debate on refugees and migrants and the national government doesn’t want to be seen as refugee-friendly. From the perspective of some of the parties they feel that they do enough. They say they are helping Greece and of course there is help for Greece,” he also said.
Ten EU countries – Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg and Lithuania – have pledged to take in at least 1,600 lone children from the Greek islands, just under a third of the 5,500 unaccompanied minors estimated to be in Greece but so far only 69 have been taken in.
German Social Democrat MEP Brigit Sippel said earlier she knew of “cities and German Länder who are ready … tomorrow, to do more,” but complained Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is moving too slow and accepting only 47 was “ridiculous.”