After the final relocation flight with refugees from Greek camps landed in Germany this week, German aid organizations criticized the end to resettlement from Lesbos and demanded an extension. Since April 2020, Germany has taken in a total of 2,662 people from the Greek Aegean Islands.
"It's a order of humanity" to keep taking in those seeking protection, Catholic charity Caritas President Peter Neher said on Wednesday (March 31) on the occasion of the last charter flight bringing selected refugees from the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos to Germany.
According to the German interior ministry, a flight from Lesbos with 120 people on board arrived Wednesday afternoon at Hanover airport. The group consisted of 30 families with 59 adults and 61 minors, the ministry said in a press release.
The final flight brings the number of people Germany has taken in since April 2020 to 2,662, according to the interior ministry. The refugees and migrants from the flight will be distributed to nine German states, including Berlin, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia, the ministry said in the press release.
The 120 people who landed in Hanover are part of an agreed contingent of 1,553 recognized refugees whose admission the German government had pledged after a fire destroyed the Moria migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos last September.
Aid organizations demand extension
Caritas' Neher said while taking in the 2,662 people was an important sign of humanity and solidarity, the situation in the Greek camps hasn't improved. He called on the government to continue welcoming people seeking protection, particularly because there was an "enormous readiness" to receive people among states, municipalities and civil society.
Caritas was one of eight migration aid organizations that demanded from the German government to continue receptions from the Greek islands under the hashtag "#AufnahmeFortsetzen" ("continue reception").
Accusing Germany and the European Union of lacking political will to change something about the situation, Seebrücke ("sea bridge") said 240 German municipalities have indicated they'd be willing to take in refugees.
The hitherto 2,662 accepted people were "but a drop in the ocean" and needed to be continued, Seebrücke said. Another organization was Pro Asyl, whose managing director warned that the Greek islands were "turning into open air prisons" where those seeking protection were left alone without access to asylum or legal protection.
The German Red Cross (DRK) also saw continued need for action for refugees in Greece. While the DRK's mandate for its mission in the reception camp Kara Tepe on Lesbos officially ended on Wednesday (March 31), the aid organization said it would extend its efforts for refugees in other parts of Greece. Among other things, the DRK works on water supply as well as showers and other hygiene facilities.
Back in March 2020, Germany had already said it would provide a passage to Germany for 244 ill children and their families as well as 53 unaccompanied minors. Most of these people have arrived in Germany by now, according to the Interior Ministry.
In addition, the German government had said it was willing to take in 150 unaccompanied minors after the fire that destroyed Moria.
Situation on the Greek Aegean Islands
Following a devastating fire at the Moria camp, which displaced more than 12,000 people who were staying in and around Europe's then-largest migrant camp, Greece erected the Kara Tepe tent camp nearby. Many refugees and asylum seekers were transferred to the Greek mainland and some to other EU countries like Germany. But thousands remained on Lesbos and were moved to Kara Tepe.
UN agencies, human rights organizations and migrant aid organizations like Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have repeatedly condemned the conditions at the tent cities on the Greek islands, such as Kara Tepe on Lesbos.
According to the latest UNHCR data, some 15,450 refugees and asylum seekers currently reside on the Greek Aegean Islands -- a number that is down from close to 20,000 in December 2020. The majority of the people on the islands are Afghan (49%), Syrian (16%) and Somalian (8%). "Approximately 6% of the children are unaccompanied or separated, mainly from Afghanistan," according to UNHCR.
At the beginning of the week, the EU pledged €276 million for the construction of new camps on five of the Greek Aegean Islands (Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos). The largest of these new camps, on Lesbos, is said to be completed by the end of the year.
With KNA, tagesschau