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Relocations of unaccompanied children to EU+: contribution of states, cities and civic society

Since 2015, almost 1,400 unaccompanied children have been transferred from Greece to another EU+ state in aim to address overcrowding in reception centres. But still the situation requires urgent solidarity solutions. Numbers of children seeing shelter in Greece are only on the rise.

The outbreak of COVID-19 made the situation more critical, threatening health and lives of children locked down in harsh conditions with no sanitation, facing a risk of contamination, deprived from sufficient medical and psychological assistance. More than 5,000 unaccompanied minors remain in camps, with almost 1500-1800 trapped in hotspots on six Greek Aegean islands. In February 1000 unaccompanied children were living in and around the Moria Camp on the island of Lesvos. 

Contribution of states 

In March the European Commission introduced an Action Plan for immediate measures to support Greece.  Following the argent need of solidarity action, 10 Member States announced the join initiative, declaring to evacuate 1,600 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Lithuania and Switzerland have offered to host relocated children on their territories. Only three transfers have taken place under the initiative. In April two groups of 12 and 55 children were transferred to Luxembourg and Germany sufficiently. At the beginning of May, Portugal announced that it would take up to 60 unaccompanied children from Greek refugee camps. In May a group of 23 minors found their homes in Switzerland. Although the United Kingdom did not join the initiative, it welcomed the group of 16 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

Some relocations were postponed due to the high risk of the covid outbreak. Lithuania announced to host two minor migrants as soon as anti-covid restrictions will be lifted in the country. France is willing to take 350 unaccompanied minors in July. 

Despite the efforts and contributions of some national governments the issue of relocations of unaccompanied minors remain to be marginalized. 16 EU countries have not agreed to relocation yet.  Although thousands of children are in urgent need of durable solutions, quotas of transferred groups are inadequate to the scale of the problem. 

Cities and civic society are leading the way

Cities, churches and citizen groups are active in calling on their national governments for immediate response. In April 67 civil society organisations directed an open letter to European governments urging states to honour their pledges and proceed with emergency relocations from the Reception and Identification Centres (RICs) on the Greek islands.
European cities lunched join initiatives to advocate for solidarity and to speed up immediate relocations. Over 40 cities and towns have joined the initiative #CitiesMustAct to convince governments and EU leaders for immediate actions. The initiative started in March when the Mayor and citizens of Berlin stated the willingness to welcome 1,500 refugees from camps on the Greek mainland and islands. 
The mayors of Cologne, Düsseldorf, Potsdam, Hanover, Freiburg, Rottenburg and Frankfurt (Oder), together with the Interior Minister of Lower Saxony, signed an appeal to federal government to fulfil national commitments. The Dutch city of Leiden also pledged its involvement in any such scheme developed for The Netherlands. 

Other examples of solidarity come also from regions. Thuringia, German federal state, announced that it will launch an admission programme and grant residence permits to 500 asylum seekers from Greece by the end of 2022. 
Vasiliki Karzi.

ANTIGONE - Information and Documentation Center on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non-Violence 

The European and Migration Policy Programme
Institute of Public Affairs

At least 140 children with serious health conditions living at Moria migrant camp, says MSF, https://www.euronews.com/2020/01/25/at-least-140-children-with-serious-health-conditions-living-at-moria-migrant-camp-says-msf, [26.01.2020].
Migration: Commission takes action to find solutions for unaccompanied migrant children on Greek islands, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_406, [06.03.2020].
Relocation of unaccompanied children from Greece, https://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2020/relocation-unaccompanied-children-greece, [17.03.2020]. 
Relocation of unaccompanied minors from Greece during the covid 19 pandemic: no time to lose, https://resettlement.eu/page/relocation-unaccompanied-minors-greece-during-covid-19-pandemic-no-time-lose. 
Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children (UAC) in Greece, http://www.ekka.org.gr/images/%CE%A3%CE%A4%CE%91%CE%A4%CE%99%CE%A3%CE%A4%CE%99%CE%9A%CE%91_2020/EKKA%20Dashboard%2015-5-2020.pdf, [15.05.2020].