Nearly two dozen young migrants were taken to Switzerland from overcrowded camps on Greek Aegean islands on Saturday, according to Greek authorities. However, more than 5,000 unaccompanied minors remain in Greece.
The 18 boys and five girls, between the ages of 10 and 17, came from Afghanistan and Congo-Brazzaville, the Greek Migration Ministry said. All 23 children reportedly have relatives in Switzerland.
In mid-April, European Union (EU) member states Germany and Luxembourg had taken in 59 unaccompanied children from camps on the Greek Aegean islands. Germany took in 47 mainly Afghan and Syrian youngsters. Luxembourg, the EU's smallest state, received 12 unaccompanied minors from camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos.
Overcrowded migrant camps in Greece
Last Saturday, Britain became the first non-EU European country to take in underage migrants when 16 youngsters arrived there. Britain had left the EU on February 1 of this year. Switzerland is also not a member of the EU but has close ties to the EU.
According to the latest UNHCR data, there are currently about 37,800 migrants and asylum seekers on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos and the Dodecanese islands. That's far fewer than earlier this year -- there were some 42,000 migrants on the islands in February.
The drop is due to a stark decrease of arrivals from neighboring Turkey, and the transfer of migrants to mainland Greece. But most island camps are still severely overcrowded. Some 19,000 people alone live in and around the notorious Moria camp on Lesbos, several times the camp's projected capacity.
More than 5,000 unaccompanied children
In March, several European countries had pledged to take in around 1,600 unaccompanied minors from the overcrowded camps in Greece.
That's about a third of all unaccompanied minors in Greece. According to UN children's rights organization UNICEF, there are currently about 5,500 unaccompanied children in the country. UNHCR says that 92.5% of those unaccompanied minors are boys, mainly from Afghanistan.
After the four relocations to Germany, Luxembourg, Britain and now Switzerland, 1,502 of the 1,600 youngsters who were supposed to be transferred to other European countries are still in Greek island camp. The outbreak of COVID-19 has reportedly slowed down transfers and it is not clear when the remaining children will be transferred.
With material from dpa