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Athens calls on the EU to accept migrant children

Greece has called on the other EU states to accept at least underage migrants from the Aegean camps. There are currently more than 24,000 people, including around 40% minors under the age of 17. "It can not be that a country refuses to take 50 or 100 children," said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Sunday on TV channel ERT.

Mitsotakis also criticized the threat of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to open the borders to Europe for Syrian refugees. If Erdoğan wants to renegotiate the agreement with the EU, then we can talk about it. "But not with threats and with a language that is not in harmony with good neighbors," said the conservative politician. The EU has already paid six billion euros to Turkey for the influx of migrants.

Mitsotakis called on the EU to take action against those states that refuse to accept minors. "Some states want all the benefits of freedom of movement in the Schengen area, but they refuse to share the burden," he said.

From Saturday morning to Sunday noon local time, according to the Greek Coast Guard, 332 migrants transferred to the islands, Rhodes, Kalymnos, Samos, Farmakonisi and Lesbos and thus to the EU. More than 20,000 people already live in the registration camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos, which have a total of around 6300 people. Another 4,000 people are housed in smaller warehouses and apartments. In August, according to UNHCR, 8,103 people from Turkey were transferred to the Greek Aegean Islands. In August 2018 came just under 3,200.

Due to Erdoğan's threats, a further increase in the influx of refugees is feared. The Turkish president had said on Saturday that his country could not handle a possible further influx of refugees from Syria alone. He appealed to the EU to provide sufficient financial support. "Either you share this burden or we have to open the gates," said Erdoğan.

Turkey has received around 3.6 million refugees in neighboring Syria since the beginning of the civil war in 2011, more than any other country in the world. The EU-Turkey Refugee Pact, which was signed in March 2016, allows the EU to return all migrants who are illegally coming to the Greek islands via Turkey. At the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, there were days when some 7,000 migrants reached Greek islands via Turkey.

Due to staff shortages, however, the processing of asylum applications continues to be difficult today. The left-wing government in Athens under former PM Alexis Tsipras, who had been replaced in July, had repeatedly stated that there were not enough staff to advance asylum procedures.

The new conservative Greek government has announced that it will accelerate asylum procedures. Anyone who does not receive asylum, should immediately be sent back to Turkey. There should be more staff to handle asylum applications. "We will accelerate the process without violating human rights," said Prime Minister Mistotakis.

"Athen ruft EU zur Aufnahme von Migranten-Kindern auf" (Kleine Zeitung, 08-09-2019)

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