Ten European countries have agreed to take in a total of 400 unaccompanied children from the destroyed Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos, Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Friday.
Both Germany and France will take up to 150 minors each, according to Seehofer. That comes alongside commitments from Finland, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Croatia, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands, according to the European Commission.
But NGOs that support refugees and some leading opposition politicians called on Germany and the EU to do much more. Katrin Göring-Eckardt, co-leader of the Greens in the Bundestag, tweeted from Lesvos that “it is simply not enough to take in 150 unaccompanied children.”
“There are babies with their parents here, six-year-olds who aren’t going to school. Sick people without treatment. Everyone here is living in the most undignified circumstances,” Göring-Eckardt said. She called on Seehofer to give up a “blockade against humanity” and agree to take in more refugees from Moria.
The European governments’ decision comes after thousands were forced to flee the overcrowded Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesvos when it was set ablaze earlier this week. The facility was home to 12,500 people, over four times its official capacity, and had recently been placed under quarantine due to a coronavirus case.
Seehofer, a Bavarian conservative, said he was “surprised” Austria had not joined the countries taking part in the initiative “especially with one particular party being part of the governing coalition” — a reference to the Greens.
EU countries have been deeply divided for years over how to handle asylum seekers arriving from outside the bloc in Greece and other member states. Germany and a number of southern European countries want refugees to be distributed around the EU but Central and Eastern European states have fiercely opposed the idea.
The European Commission is due to present a much-delayed proposal on migration and asylum reform at the end of this month.