Unaccompanied minors in a hostel in Athens | Photo: Picture-alliance /AP Photo/ T. Stavrakis
Unaccompanied minors in a hostel in Athens | Photo: Picture-alliance /AP Photo/ T. Stavrakis

Berlin's mayor Michael Müller has announced that the German capital is willing to take in 70 unaccompanied migrant children and young people from the Greek island of Lesbos.

"The situation in the camps on Lesbos is dramatic," Sandra Scheeres, the senator for families in Berlin, told the German news agency dpa. "Unaccompanied children and young people are particularly vulnerable to the problems there," she continued.

Berlin’s mayor tweeted about the decision that he is willing to accept 70 unaccompanied migrants in the city on Friday, December 6.

He wrote: “Berlin is clear. People who are looking for protection will find open doors and a safe haven in Berlin. We believe in this and we are ready to help. That is particularly true for anyone who is fleeing without their parents; and so is even more in need of protection.”

It seems that the German federal ministry, which is in charge of migration, is against these kinds of action. On December 6, Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that a Europe-wide solution needed to be found and that single actions are not the way to tackle this problem.

Other states follow suit

It is estimated that there are about 4,100 unaccompanied children and young people on the Greek islands at the moment. The majority of them are over 14 years old, but some are younger.

In a meeting of the interior ministers of the German states on Friday, December 6, two other states, Lower Saxony and Thuringia, also said they would be accepting small contingents of unaccompanied minors in order to ease the overcrowding and problems that these young people are facing in Greece.

Lower Saxony’s interior minister Boris Pistorius, from the Social Democratic Party (SPD), visited Lesbos in October and reported back on the conditions he found there. He told the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel that thousands of people were “living in tents made from rubbish bags and shelters not suitable for the winter.”

According to Tagesspiegel, Pistorius, along with SPD colleagues Andreas Geisel (Berlin’s interior senator) and Georg Maier, the interior minister of Thuringia, wrote a letter to German Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, asking for more support and for a federal response to the situation.

'Urgent action needed'

In the letter, they said that urgent action was needed, given that winter was already here and temperatures dropping. They added that Germany should not turn away from the situation these people found themselves in and should launch a proper national operation soon.

On Friday Tagesspiegel reported that Lower Saxony was ready to welcome 100 young unaccompanied migrants, Berlin 50 and Thuringia 25. Berlin’s mayor Michael Müller has confirmed that his city, which constitutes one of Germany’s 16 administrative states, is now ready to accept 70. Berlin is a part of the “safe haven” or “sanctuary cities” network, along with Palermo, Paris and Barcelona.  

The letter, said Tagesspiegel, explained that the states would mostly be taking young asylum seekers from Syria, and other countries destroyed by war.


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