The UN agencies IOM, UNHCR, and UNICEF said that over 1,000 asylum seekers have been transferred from Greece to other European countries through this year, with the EU initiative for relocations.
The Greek government, together with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, and UNICEF, celebrated the transfer on Wednesday of 139 asylum seekers from Greece to Germany.
The transfer brought the total number of people relocated from Greek territory to other EU member states this year through a programme financed by the European Commission to over 1,000.
In a joint statement by the UN agencies, the September 30 transfer was the 16th relocation flight organized under the EU programme implemented by IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF in cooperation with the Greek government through the Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Children, and in close collaboration with the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
Transfers to Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Portugal
This year, a total of 1,066 asylum seekers have been relocated from Greece to Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal.
Since the tragic fires at Moria, IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF have worked together with the financial support of the European Commission and leadership of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum's Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Children to move 724 unaccompanied children from the islands to the mainland in anticipation of their relocation to other European States.
All children have been settled in temporary facilities run by IOM and partners on the mainland.
The relocation initiative, which started last April, has proven to be a workable act of responsibility sharing. The UN agencies are encouraged by the expression of solidarity and action by some member states to welcome additional asylum seekers and recognized refugees from Greece at a time of heightened hardship.
Relocations 'a milestone'
"This milestone is a remarkable testament that cooperation among partners can change the lives of children and other vulnerable people for the better," said Ola Henrikson, IOM Regional Director for the EEA, EU and NATO.
"Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, relocation flights are happening almost every week. We hope this momentum is sustained and expanded, with more European states participating soon."
As of mid-September, there were almost 4,400 unaccompanied and separated children in Greece in urgent need of durable solutions, including family reunion and relocation.
Among them, over 1,000 are exposed to severe risks, including exploitation and violence, and facing homelessness and precarious conditions in urban centers.
The agencies are calling for more EU solidarity through relocations following the release of the European Commission's New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which contains a series of legislative proposals on the EU's approach to migration and asylum.