Overcrowding and extremely limited access to running water, toilets and showers, make it impossible for people trapped on the Greek islands to abide by the guidelines for protecting oneself from COVID-19, putting them at significantly heightened risk of infection, serious illness or death, especially those with underlying health conditions.
Protection of unaccompanied children needs to be ensured
Now, more than ever, the protection of unaccompanied children needs to be ensured and all efforts to help decongest the reception centers on the Greek islands must be fully supported, if the people living there are to have any chance of protecting their lives and health and complying with measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19.
In mid-March, the European Commission announced they would take in 1,600 unaccompanied children from the islands. Since then, while ten countries pledged to relocate, efforts have largely stalled, with the exception of Luxembourg and Germany.
Promising news from Luxembourg and Germany
In Luxembourg, 12 children arrived safely this week. Supported by Caritas and the National Office for Children (ONE), the young refugees will stay in a rented house and observe a quarantine period of 14 days. Afterwards and throughout the procedure for their application for international protection, they will be supported by Caritas and ONE in their daily life endeavours.
Germany is also in the process of relocating a group of 58 unaccompanied children from Greece, who are due to arrive this weekend.
Honouring commitments is of critical importance
Pledges to relocate unaccompanied children from the islands sent a much-needed signal of solidarity. But honouring these commitments without delay is now of critical importance to protect these children.
With eight cases of COVID-19 already confirmed as of the start of April among the local population on the island of Lesvos, and one on Samos, now is the time to act.
We hope Belgium will follow Luxembourg and Germany’s example soon.