Migrants at Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa
Migrants at Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa

The state of Berlin is planning its own relocation initiative to bring 300 vulnerable refugees from Greece to Germany. The draft decree is on the table for discussion in the state senate Tuesday.

The state government of Berlin is proposing to relocate 300 refugees from the Greek Islands to Berlin by June 2021. The decree, which is pending appproval by the Senate, was drafted by Berlin's state senator for interior affairs, Andreas Geisel, who is a member of the social democratic party SPD.

The Berlin daily Tagesspiegel on Monday cited from the draft plan, which reportedly was conceived due to "desolate humanitarian conditions" in Greek refugee camps such as Moria, which currently holds 17,000 people over capacity. 

So far, only 47 refugee children have been brought to Germany as part of a pledge by several European nations to relocate up to 1,600 children. Of the 47 children, eight were accommodated in Berlin at the beginning of May -- they were all Afghan boys between 8-14 years old. 

The coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions have stalled transfers and resettlement programs since early March.

Tagesspiegel further reported that candidates for relocation would be chosen by two departments of the Berlin Senate -- the one responsible for education and the one for integration -- along with the UNHCR, medical staff as well as the Greek authorities, reports the news agency KNA. The identification of refugees would be completed by the end of July.

The draft proposes to prioritize unaccompanied minors under the age of 16, pregnant women, single mothers with children under 12 years of age, and persons suffering discrimination due to their religious beliefs or their sexual orientation, KNA reports.

Federal vs. state policy

Berlin is governed by a coalition of social democrats (SPD) and the left party (Die Linke) which has repeatedly urged the federal government to increase its intake of refugees from Greece. Numerous other cities and communes in Germany have also offered to accept vulnerable refugees -- yet their declarations have thus far continued to be overruled by the federal government. In the past, refugees have been transferred to Germany through national programs and were then distributed between Germany's 16 states. 

Berlin's proposed relocation scheme would constitute a state-run program. The draft is grounded on paragraph 23 of the residence act, which states that "the supreme Land authority (the state government, edt. note) may order a temporary residence permit to be granted to foreigners from specific states or to certain groups of foreigners defined by other means, in accordance with international law, on humanitarian grounds or in order to uphold the political interests of the Federal Republic of Germany." Such an order requires the approval by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, meaning that Berlin's proposed relocation would still require final approval on the federal level even after being passed on the state level.

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