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Relocation of unaccompanied children from Greece to Portugal and to Finland - Questions and answers

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 8 juli 2020.

Why did the Commission launch this relocation programme?

In March 2020, the Commission presented its Action Plan for immediate measures to support Greece. In order to ensure the protection and care of some of Europe's most vulnerable people, as well as in support of Greece's efforts to turn around the critical situation regarding reception of asylum seekers, the Commission launched a voluntary relocation exercise. The scheme concerns the relocation of unaccompanied children and children with severe medical conditions and other vulnerabilities with their families from Greece to other Member States. Work is also ongoing to develop sustainable solutions for the protection and care of unaccompanied children and teenagers who will stay in Greece.

Who is involved in coordinating the relocation operations?

The Commission is coordinating the relocation exercise together with the Greek Special Secretary for Unaccompanied Minors, and provides financial and operational support to Greece and participating Member States in this respect. The European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) are providing support for the implementation of the scheme.

How many people have been relocated so far and where will future operations take place?

The first relocations took place in April 2020, when 12 unaccompanied children and teenagers were relocated from Greece to Luxembourg and 47 to Germany. Following a temporary suspension due to the coronavirus restrictions and further preparatory work, transfers under the scheme resumed on 17 June 2020, when 8 unaccompanied young people were relocated to Ireland and a further 6 were relocated to Germany on 26 June. On 7 and 8 July, 49 children and teenagers were relocated to Portugal and Finland. The next operations are due to take place in a few weeks' time, with 18 young people finding new homes in Belgium, 50 in France, 106 (including siblings and parents) in Germany, 4 in Slovenia and 2 in Lithuania.

Who is eligible for this scheme?

The scheme focuses primarily on unaccompanied children and teenagers, but also includes children with severe medical conditions and other vulnerabilities and their core family members. ‘Severe medical conditions' are those that are chronic, incurable, cause severe disabilities and/or impairments and/or entail significant healthcare costs.

Unaccompanied children and teenagers with a pending asylum claim who are eligible for family reunification under the Dublin Regulation are not included in this scheme. While reunification under the Dublin Regulation is a legally binding process, this scheme is based on voluntary commitments by participating States for solidarity and humanitarian reasons. Around 450 unaccompanied young people have a pending application for Dublin family reunion with transfers notably taking place to Germany, Switzerland and the UK.

The files of children and teenagers on the islands, in protective custody, or in precarious accommodation on the mainland are examined as a matter of priority.

How many unaccompanied children and teenagers are there in Greece?

On 1 March 2020, which was the cut-off date for eligibility under the scheme, there were around 5,000 unaccompanied children and teenagers residing in Greece, one third of them on the islands and two-thirds on the mainland. As of mid-June, they were almost 4,800. About 10% of them are below the age of 14, while more than 70% are between 16 and 18 years old, with more than 90% of all unaccompanied minors being boys. The top 3 nationalities are children and teenagers coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria with relevant numbers also coming from Egypt and Bangladesh.

How many are still to be relocated?

To date, 11 Member States (Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Lithuania and Slovenia) are participating in the scheme and have pledged up to 2,000 relocation places. Norway has also expressed its willingness to join.

The pledges made so far are as follows:

 

#

Member States

Pledges

1

Belgium

18

2

Bulgaria

50

3

Croatia

10 (tbc)

4

Finland

100

5

France

350

6

Germany

920[1]

7

Ireland

36

8

Lithuania

2

9

Luxembourg

12

10

Portugal

500

11

Slovenia

4

   

2002

How does the scheme work?

The relocation scheme is implemented on the basis of Standard Operating Procedures agreed among all involved actors. This operational framework takes full account of all legal requirements applicable to children in migration. The European Asylum Support Office (EASO), with the support of UNHCR, performs a best interest assessment for each unaccompanied child or teenager who is eligible for relocation. Appointed guardians help safeguard the best interests of the child, ensure the child's overall well-being, and exercise legal representation, including final consent, in the relocation initiative. The eligible children and teenagers are kept informed about the relocation process throughout, and their opinion and preferences are taken into account.

EASO, in coordination with the Greek authorities and in particular the Special Secretary for Unaccompanied Minors, the Greek Asylum Service, the Reception and Identification Service and the Hellenic Police, align unaccompanied children and teenagers' relocation requests and the Member State pledges. To the extent possible, this process takes into account any preferences and constraints expressed by the relocating Member States.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is responsible from an operational perspective for accommodating unaccompanied children and teenagers after their transfer from the islands to the mainland and for pre-departure arrangements, as well as of the actual transfers to the receiving Member State.

In addition to its coordinating role, the European Commission is financially supporting most preparatory and pre-departure steps in Greece, as well as the transfer costs, while Member States can also request funding for participating in the scheme, (€6,000 per person transferred).

For More Information

Press release: Migration: Relocation of unaccompanied children from Greece to Portugal and Finland

Press release: Migration: First unaccompanied children relocated from Greece to Luxembourg, 15 April 2020

Press release: Migration: Commission takes action to find solutions for unaccompanied migrant children on Greek islands, 6 March 2020

[1] Germany's pledge includes 243 children with severe medical conditions and other vulnerabilities on the islands including their core family members; a total number of more than 920 persons. In addition, Germany also accepted 53 unaccompanied children and teenagers.


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