Vienna latest city to offer home to child migrants from Greek islands

Vienna says it wants to take in 100 children in need of protection from the refugee camps on the Greek islands.

The Austrian capital is the latest EU city to offer a haven for unaccompanied migrant children, a situation now exacerbated by a fire at an overcrowded refugee camp on the island of Lesbos.

A resolution backed by a coalition of Austrian political parties which highlights ‘critical living conditions’ in camps plagued by poor infrastructure, overcrowding and low hygiene.

The fire at the Moria camp left more than 12,000 people, many of them children, without shelter or proper sanitation. Greece plans to replace the camp with new- build permanent reception centre.

The Austrian coalition meanwhile, comprising the Social Democrats, Greens and liberal NEOS party, say the living conditions at the camps are particularly harmful to vulnerable children who have lost parents and are now facing the additional threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Critical living conditions’

A paper published by the coalition says that Vienna has enough capacity to take in and care for the children. The city has also told the national government that it must participate in the European Union’s ongoing voluntary relocation exercise which was launched in March this year.

It focuses on the relocation of unaccompanied children and those with severe medical conditions and other issues with their family from Greece to other EU countries. Of roughly 5,000 children in need of relocation, several hundred have so far been taken in by Luxembourg, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Finland, Belgium and France.

The EU scheme is also supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

UNICEF, in a statement, said: “The safe transfer of 406 unaccompanied and separated refugee and migrant children from Lesvos Island to the Greek mainland, following the fire at the Moria Reception and Identification Centre, is a welcome and long-sought move. Far too many other children and families will face yet another night in the open. They urgently require shelter, protection, and access to basic services.

‘Greece cannot carry the effort alone’

“The Moria fire has also made clear that they require durable solutions. All children need to be transferred off Lesvos onto the mainland, where they can be properly housed and supported. Early indications from European countries that they will relocate vulnerable unaccompanied minors are extremely important, and we appeal to more countries to take action.

“Greece cannot continue to carry the effort alone. UNICEF will continue to support our Greek partners and the work by Member States to protect and promote the rights and well-being of refugee and migrant children. The upcoming EU Pact on Migration and Asylum will be a crucial opportunity to take forward a common and shared approach to protecting children in migration in Europe.”

Author: Simon Weedy

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