From file: Moria camp on June 7, 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance/G. Siamidis
From file: Moria camp on June 7, 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance/G. Siamidis

The head of Germany’s most populous state North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) visited the migrant camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos on Tuesday. After speaking to organizations working there, Armin Laschet called on the whole EU to "wake up" and said that he had listened to those in despair in the camps.

Armin Laschet, from the conservative CDU (Christian Democratic Union) party, is the head of Germany's most populous state North Rhine Westphalia and has been touted as one of the future candidates to take over from German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she leaves office at the next elections.

On Tuesday August 4, Laschet visited migrant camps on the Greek island of Lesbos and spoke to those working for aid organizations in the camps. He told the news agency dpa that visiting the camps was like listening to "screams of desperation".

'Wake up Europe!'

Laschet called upon the European Union to "wake up" and said that Germany's holding of the rotating EU presidency offered the chance to find some "lasting solutions" to the migrant crisis. He said that Europe needed to help the Greek government and not leave the Greek people, the migrants themselves or those that run the camps and work in them alone.

Like several other German states, NRW has already taken in small contingents of unaccompanied children and vulnerable people from the Greek camps as well as boasting one of the greatest number of asylum seekers in Germany in 2019. According to German government statistics for the end of 2019, North Rhine Westphalia had a foreign population of just over 15%, although not all of those people are asylum seekers, refugees or even recent migrants.Armin Laschet and his migration minister Joachim Stamp fly to Greece for a visit | Photo: NRW State PressAssessing the situation

On August 3, Laschet met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, as well as the country's foreign minister Nikos Dendias. In a press release on NRW's state website, Laschet said that his Greek visit was to help him gain a personal understanding on the situation in the migrant camps on Lesbos.

Following that meeting, Laschet stated that Europe needed to "work together to protect its external borders and provide humanitarian help for refugees who arrive on the Greek islands." He said although the migrants had arrived on Greek soil they had essentially stepped on to "European soil, and so any solution to their problems had to be via Europe too."

Although Laschet called off his visit to the main camp in Moria, due to security concerns, he did visit a smaller camp at Kara Tepe in Mytilene on Lesbos. This camp is the home to those most in need of protection, including victims of torture, people with disabilities, pregnant women, old and ill people. Chief of NRW Armin Laschet meets Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to talk about migration | Photo: Land NRW Press / Ralph Sondermann During his visit, according to his press statement, Laschet also plans to meet with teams from Frontex and the mayor of Mytilene before leaving the island. Whilst on the island, Laschet reiterated his state's intention to take in more children in need of protection and their closest family members "in the coming weeks."

He said that although Germany was also busy fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in the camps in Greece the virus had "another meaning entirely." Laschet noted that many of the camps' inhabitants were unable to leave the camps freely because of the virus and that made many migrants feel they were living in a hopeless situation with "no perspective."


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