LESBOS: Germany said on Tuesday it has agreed to take in more than 1,500 refugees from Greece on top of the 150 unaccompanied minors whose camp burned down on the island of Lesbos as Berlin tried to rally a fresh EU response to a years-long migrant crisis that flared anew.
EU countries have been forced to tackle the issue as thousands of former occupants of Moria camp on Lesbos have been sleeping rough in abandoned buildings, on roadsides and rooftops, after their shelters were destroyed by the blaze on the night of Sept 8.
German Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s left-right coalition has agreed to take in 1,553 refugees from Greece, on top of the 150 unaccompanied minors from the burned out camp.
Germany will now also welcome families with children who have already secured refugee status in Greece but may not be from the Moria camp.
France has agreed to take in 150 minors from the camp while other EU nations are admitting a total of 100 other youngsters from Moria.
Meanwhile Greek officials announced that six suspects, including “young foreign nationals,” have been arrested in Lesbos in connection with the fire.
Greek officials have said several times that the fire was started by migrants who faced isolation after testing positive for coronavirus.
European Council chief Charles Michel, flying to Lesbos after talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens, urged the 27-nation bloc to “take more responsibilities” to tackle the humanitarian issue.
“We want to support the efforts made by the Greek authority,” Michel said, adding that the “dignity of the European project” was at stake.
“We need to make more progress to improve our border control…we need to have more partnerships with third countries, we cannot solve everything alone,” he said on a hill overlooking a new tent camp hastily put together by Greek authorities.
EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said between “8-9,000 will be able to find immediate temporary shelter” there The plan to take in the refugees emerged as German cities and towns urged Berlin to do more.
Five years after the arrival in Europe of over a million asylum seekers, many fleeing wars in Iraq and Syria, the question over how the bloc should share out its refugee responsibilities remains a sensitive one.
Opposition from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia over taking in refugees has been a major stumbling block in the EU’s attempt to reform its migration and asylum policies.
Even in Germany, politicians are wary of seeing the same scenes of huge migrant arrivals as in 2015, which the far-right capitalised on to gain a foothold in parliament.
This time round, Merkel’s government has repeatedly insisted it is key to find a European solution to the issue rather than going it alone.
A “just, strong and efficient response” to the problem is needed, Michel said in Athens.
Many migrants have refused to enter the new camp of white tents near the eastern port village of Panagiouda, fearing they will be unable to leave once inside.
Others, though, have reluctantly made their way to the site in the searing heat.