Germany pledges help for refugee children caught up in Greece crisis

By Rachel More, dpa

Greece is to receive support from Germany for up to 1,500 children who are caught up in the latest migration crisis on the European Union’s external border, under an agreement made by the coalition government in Berlin.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc and its Social Democrat (SPD) partners said the government wants to “support Greece with the difficult humanitarian situation of around 1,000 to 1,500 children on the Greek islands,” in a policy paper agreed to early Monday after overnight consultations.

Negotiations will take place in the coming days at EU level to find a humanitarian solution to relocate these children in a “coalition of the willing,” the paper says.

The German government stressed its solidarity with Greece, where the rate of migrant arrivals has jumped in recent days, but stressed “order and humanity belong together.”

Around 116,000 refugees and migrants are currently living in Greece, according to figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Among them are an estimated 5,500 unaccompanied minors, according to Greece’s National Centre for Social Solidarity (EKKA). Many of them are living in extremely cramped and unsanitary conditions.

The rate of daily arrivals by sea to the Greek islands has jumped since Turkey said it would open its border on February 29. Thousands more are stranded on Turkey’s land border with Greece.

The German plan is to focus on children who are either suffering from serious illness or unaccompanied children under the age of 14, particularly girls.

The government said it was “prepared to take in an appropriate share” of young people redistributed among countries in the European Union who are also offering shelter.

This would not have to include all 27 member states, which have remained deeply divided on how the bloc should deal with the humanitarian crisis since vast numbers of people began seeking shelter on the continent in 2014.

“We are talking about the weakest people, some of whom have been in a precarious situation for months,” said Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, once a sparring partner with Merkel on migration, whose position has softened since tensions at the Greek border and migrant camp squalor came back into the spotlight in recent days.

He pledged to work with other EU states to find “a viable European solution.”

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