On 15 April Greece began relocating to Luxembourg unaccompanied children from camps on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, and Chios, which are severely overcrowded. There are reportedly some 5,000 unaccompanied children in Greek camps, and the country has plans “to relocate about 1,600 vulnerable children to other European countries that volunteer to host them, amid the coronavirus outbreak,” according to the BBC. The move comes after severe criticism from human rights groups calling for the immediate release of children from police cells and detention centres. “Keeping children locked up in filthy police cells was always wrong, but now it also exposes them to the risk of Covid-19 infection,” said Human Rights Watch.
Previously, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs reported in early April that 1,000 refugees and migrants deemed vulnerable to the virus had been moved from Greek islands to hotels. In addition, although asylum services were temporarily suspended from 13 March 2020, including registration of asylum requests, asylum interviews and appeals in asylum cases, the asylum service stated that applicants’ cards and residence permits due to expire during the suspension would remain valid.
Meanwhile, according to reports in the Greek press, Turkey has allegedly been pushing Covid-infected migrants across the border into Greece. According to Ekathimerini.com (11 April), “Sources that cannot be named but are considered reliable believe that Turkey has a plan to push migrants infected with the coronavirus to cross into Greece and other parts of Europe in the midst of the virus pandemic. According to the sources, these migrants, many of whom were also at the Pazarkule, or Kastanies, border crossing, have been transported from migrant camps in the hinterland.”
- V. Nedos, “Turkey Pushing Covid-infected Migrants to Cross into Greece, Officials Believe,” Ekathimerini.com, 11 April 2020, https://www.ekathimerini.com/251623/article/ekathimerini/news/turkey-pushing-covid-infected-migrants-to-cross-into-greece-officials-believe
- BBC News, “Greece Relocates Unaccompanied Migrant Children to Luxembourg,” 15 April 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-52303623
- IOM, “IOM Recognises Efforts in Europe, Middle East to Protect All Migrants’ Access to Public Health,” 3 April 2020, https://www.iom.int/news/iom-recognizes-efforts-europe-middle-east-protect-all-migrants-access-public-health
- Ylva Johansson (@YlvaJohansson), Twitter, https://twitter.com/YlvaJohansson/status/1250010065098149888
- Relocated Unaccompanied Minors in Luxembourg Airport Holding IOM Bags, (Getty Images, BBC News, “Greece Relocates Unaccompanied Migrant Children to Luxembourg”,15 April 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-52303623)