The German interior ministry has halted the plan of the German capital state of Berlin to receive 300 vulnerable refugees from Greece. Officials in Berlin reacted with astonishment and outrage.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has rejected a petition by the state of Berlin to take in 300 vulnerable refugees from Greece.
Explaining his decision in a letter to a Berlin Senate member, Seehofer said that he was not up for national solo efforts. He also said the federal government is the sole responsible authority to guarantee the legal basis of such relocations.
Furthermore, Seehofer emphasized that the government's agreement to take in the sick and children from Greek islands was already underway via a federal relocation scheme.
Under that scheme, Germany received an additional 90 migrants from camps on the Greek Aegean islands on Friday (July 31). According to the interior ministry, 19 children in need of medical treatment and three teenagers with their core families arrived in Berlin. The total of 22 families had between two and eight members.
Seehofer's decision draws criticism
To the advocates of such state relocation programs ("Landesaufnahmeprogramme"), Seehofer's rejection is confusing.
In the past, state-level programs like the one that has brought persecuted Yazidis to Brandenburg have been approved by the ministry.
Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairman of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany, told German broadcaster ZDF that Seehofer's decision was incomprehensible.
Berlin's governing mayor, Michael Müller, called the rejection by Seehofer a "political scandal" that made all Senate members "very angry."
Reacting to Seehofer's letter, a spokesperson for Berlin's Senate said that Berlin could take in more than the 150 people allocated by the federal government.
To that end, Berlin's Senate in June passed a decree to bring 300 vulnerable refugees from Greece to Germany by June 2021.
Germany was among several European countries that pledged in March to take in about 1,600 vulnerable migrants from overcrowded camps in Greece. A total of 928 migrants are to be relocated to Germany.
In a first step, Germany transferred 47 unaccompanied minors, mostly young boys from Afghanistan, in April. Six children followed in late June; 84 migrants were flown to Germany on July 24. More children and families have already arrived in other countries including in Switzerland, Sweden and Luxembourg.
According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, 31,700 migrants remain on the Greek islands, a third of them minors. Around half of the migrants on the islands are from Afghanistan, while nearly one fifth are Syrians.
Back in January, a coalition of dozens of German municipalities also demanded that Chancellor Angela Merkel's government allow them to immediately begin resettling migrants rescued on the Mediterranean Sea.
With material from epd, AFP