A group of unaccompanied refugee children was relocated from Greek islands to Luxembourg, the European Commission said.
Twelve children between the ages of 11 and 15 were taken from Lesvos, Samos and Chios to Luxemburg, and 50 more will be transferred to Germany this coming weekend.
Greece says there are 42,000 asylum-seekers on its islands, of which 1,500 are children and minors.
To ease pressure on Greek authorities, the European Commission in early Mach opened a relocation program for minors who had been stranded in camps on the islands.
Ten EU members, and Switzerland, responded to the Commission’s call.
The eleven countries pledged to relocate 1,600 asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors and families in a fragile situation.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted the program, but Luxemburg gave the green light last week after Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn and Greek Minister of Migration Policy Giorgos Koumoutsakos had a exchange of opinion via telephone.
The decision was intended to support Greek authorities “facing in particular the risk of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in overcrowded refugee camps,” the government of Luxembourg explained in a statement April 15.
“In times where coronavirus is taking its toll on everyday life, it is commendable to see Member States honoring their commitments and working together to help vulnerable migrants on the Greek islands,” EU Commissioner for Promoting our European way of life Commissioner Margaritis Schinas said as 12 children arrived in Luxemburg.
Greece imposed a curfew on migrants living in Lesvos’ Moria refugee camp in March.
The Ritsona refugee camp near Athens was placed under lockdown two weeks ago after 20 cases of coronavirus infection were established.
Human Rights Watch launched a campaign April 14 to secure the release of hundreds of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Greece.
According to the #FreeTheKids campaign, at least 331 children are under police custody waiting for transfer to a shelter.
Greek authorities call the measures protective custody.