Germany to take 85 refugee children with families from Greek islands

Germany will take in a group of 85 refugee children from shelters on the Greek islands, Athens’ Deputy Migrations Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos said on Thursday.

“Today’s transfer contributed to the relieving of the islands,” Komoutskakos said.

Along with the children, 90 family members were also due to board a flight from Athens to Kassel in central Germany.

The relocation of children from desperately overcrowded shelters on the Greek Aegean islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos to EU countries and Switzerland has been halted by the coronavirus epidemic.

The plan is to transfer 1,600 minors. So far, more than 200 have been relocated to Germany, Switzerland, Finland and Portugal.

Greece is the main gateway for refugees and migrants attempting to reach Europe from Turkey. Most attempt to cross the Aegean but become stranded on the islands.

The shelters there are chronically overcrowded, with the migrant population several times larger than the projected capacity.

The announcement follows a concerted effort to relocate migrants from the islands to mainland Greece, according to the Greek Ministry for Migration.

Amid the epidemic, politicians and NGOs have repeatedly called for the camps to be cleared completely, given the overcrowding and poor hygiene conditions.

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