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Afghans Among Unaccompanied Children Evacuated From Greek Refugee Camps To Germany

FILE: An Afghan woman holds her child upon their arrival from Lesbos island to the port of Piraeus, near Athens in October 2019.
FILE: An Afghan woman holds her child upon their arrival from Lesbos island to the port of Piraeus, near Athens in October 2019.

A group of 47 unaccompanied children evacuated from refugee camps in Greece arrived in Germany on April 18, German officials said.

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 at refugee camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos, and Chios that have been criticized by rights activists as unsuitable for children.

Germany's Interior Ministry said the children arrived in Hanover, Germany early on April 18 on a flight from Athens.

The ministry said they were all tested for the coronavirus before departure and would remain in a two-week quarantine before moving on to other parts of Germany.

Germany's interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said the evacuation was “the result of months of preparation and intense talks with our European partners."

Seehofer expressed hope that other countries would also begin taking in refugee children soon.

"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," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotsakis told reporters at the Athens airport where he met the departing children.

"I’m glad this program is finally being implemented,” Mitsotsakis said, adding that he hopes more than 1,500 children would be relocated from Greek refugee camps during the coming months.

Germany pledged in March 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.

The flight to Germany was the second airplane that carried unaccompanied refugee children to another European country. On April 15, 12 children traveled from Greece to Luxembourg.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General, said in early April that there were more than 5,200 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Greece.

Dujarric said the children were “in urgent need of durable solutions, including expedited registration, family reunification, and relocation."

With reporting by Reuters and AP

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