Refugees from Greek islands leave for new life in Germany

A total of 101 refugees departed from Athens’ airport for Germany on Friday. They are the first group of a total of 1,553 refugees Germany has pledged to accept after the recent crisis on the Greek island of Lesvos, Greek and German officials said.

“After the devastating fires in Moria (refugee and migrant camp), the Greek government moved (people) to a temporary camp and uninterruptedly provided food, water, and medical supplies to refugees. Now the German government is stepping up and is taking 1,553 recognized refugees,” Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi told Xinhua and other media after the take-off.

“I think this is a good example of how European Union (EU) member states can assist the frontline states that in the last few years took most of the pressure from the migratory flows,” he added.

In early September a series of fires in Moria on Lesvos Island, the largest refugee camp in Greece for years, turned the site in ruins. Some 13,000 people in the facility, which was built to accommodate almost 3,000, were left homeless again, according to official data from the Greek government.

Based on the current timetables, the construction of a new camp to replace Moria is not expected to be completed before next summer.

Since 2015, over a million refugees and migrants have crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey’s shores reaching the Greek islands, fleeing wars and extreme poverty.

Most continued their journey to other EU countries until the winter of 2016 when the borders along the Balkan route to central Europe were closed and an EU-Turkey agreement aimed to stem the influx was launched.

Currently, about 95,000 asylum seekers are stranded in Greece and a third of them are hosted in overcrowded facilities on five islands, according to Greek government figures.

“Germany has already brought a total of more than 800 people from Greece to Germany this year alone. This number includes 104 unaccompanied minors and 163 children in need of medical treatment and their families,” Heike Dettmann, Charge d’Affaires in the German embassy in Athens, told reporters.