A plane carrying at least 86 asylum seekers, including sick children, arrived in Germany on Thursday as part of the country's pledge to take in migrants from camps in Greece.
Nineteen children and their relatives from Greek refugee camps arrived in the German city of Hanover in Lower Saxony on Thursday. The charter flight is the last of the year in a series of relocations of people from Greece to Germany.
"I am pleased that these people are given the opportunity to find a new home in Germany and in Lower Saxony," said the state's interior minister Boris Pistorius.
"We have managed this year, even under the difficult circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, to rescue more than 1,500 people from the deplorable conditions of the refugee camps on the Greek islands, among them many especially vulnerable children," Pistorius said.
Pistorius added that the continued catastrophic circumstances on the Aegean islands, especially Lesbos, was "shameful."
"This is why we must not only continue our commitment in 2021 but also increase the overall number we take in," he said.
Further transfers will take place in 2021, according to the German government.
In March, the federal interior minister, Horst Seehofer, pledged to help Greece by taking in a total of 243 sick children and their close family members. Three more families are expected to arrive early in the new year on a commercial flight, the AP news agency reported.
Overall, Germany has taken in 1,519 migrants from Greece since April, including 150 children who were left in need of emergency shelter after Greece's largest refugee camp, Moria, burned down in September.
Included in that figure also are some of the 1,553 people already granted protection status -- 408 families with children - that Germany has said it will take from various Greek islands, the interior ministry said.
Appeal for humanitarian spirit
German MPs and aid organizations meanwhile have called for greater support for refugees on the Greek islands. On Thursday, 200 MPs from all parties except the AfD backed a Christmas appeal calling for the "humanitarian reception" of refugees.
Parties supporting the appeal, including the CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP, Greens and the Left Party, called on the government to “stand up for compliance with human rights and European legal standards, to speed up the reception of refugees from the Greek islands to Germany and to increase the pledges in view of the readiness expressed by German states, cities and municipalities to receive refugees.
Aid organizations such as Sea-Watch, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Pro Asyl, a refugee advocacy group, also urged the government to provide more help for migrants and refugees in Greece.
"The camps are not a safe place for anyone," said Doreen Johann of Sea-Watch. "More than 17,000 people are still stranded on the Greek islands in the cold and wet, even though states and municipalities in Germany are ready to welcome these people immediately."
MSF said that despite the European Union’s promises, it had continued a policy of deterrence, which was harmful to migrants’ health.
The Catholic peace movement "pax christi" welcomed the MPs’ Christmas appeal, saying it would increase pressure on the German government to do something about the situation of refugees in the Greek hotpots.
With KNA, AP, EPD