What evolution of asylum policies in European countries since 2015?
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Luxembourg and Germany have taken the first unaccompanied minors from the Greek camps
As part of a new relocation programme managed by the European Commission which is due to cover 1,600 refugee children trapped in camps on the Greek islands, fifty-nine of them arrived in Luxembourg and Germany between 15th and 18th April.
In March, the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, once again alerted members of the European Union (EU) to the “tragedy of unaccompanied children arriving in Greece”, especially in the overcrowded camps on islands in the Aegean Sea – these latter more than 42,000 asylum seekers, approximately 1,500 of whom are unaccompanied minors.
Under pressure from the European institutions, NGOs and a number of local elected representatives, on 9th March Germany called for the creation of a coalition of “willing” countries to take in these children. At the present time ten Member States (France, Belgium, Croatia, Bulgaria, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg and Lithuania), along with Switzerland, to take 1,600 unaccompanied or seriously ill minors as part of a specific relocation initiative, working in coordination with the European Commission.
The opening of the borders with Greece decided upon by the Turkish president on 28th February, and then the COVID-19 health crisis, have temporarily suspended the idea of these transfers. However, faced with the urgency of the situation, on 3rd April sixty-seven NGOs have urged EU Member States to fulfil their commitments immediately, as did the Senate of Berlin which gave notice of its readiness to take numerous unaccompanied minors in the German capital, even without the agreement of the federal government.
The first twelve beneficiaries, aged between 11 and 15, finally arrived in Luxembourg on 15th April, with the help of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration. Forty-seven other refugees children, originally from Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea, arrived in Germany – where some of them have family members – on 18th April. As a health precaution they will first of all be placed in quarantine near the town of Osnabrück, in the north-west of the country, before being distributed between various Länder.
So these young people, identified on the ground by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and Greek NGOs, should be just the first of a huge mobilisation, as Germany, for example, hopes to take up to 500 of them. In the coming weeks, more than 200 children are expected to join Finland (100), Portugal (60), France (50), Belgium (18) and Slovenia (4). In addition, 16 unaccompanied minors left Greece on 11 May to join family members in the UK under the Dublin Regulation, as did Switzerland, which received 23 children five days later.
Even so, the number of children relocated is still fairly low, as there are around 5,000 unaccompanied minors living across the whole of Greek territory.
This text includes and updates the article published in French in “Veille Europe” of 16-30 April 2020.