Germany plans to offer refuge to 1,500 migrants currently taking shelter on Greek islands, government sources said yesterday, as immigration shot up the EU’s political agenda again after a huge fire destroyed an overcrowded camp.
Thousands of former occupants of Moria camp on Lesbos island in Greece have been sleeping rough in abandoned buildings, on roadsides and rooftops, after their shelters were destroyed by the blaze on the night of September 8.
Five “young foreign nationals” were arrested in Lesbos in connection with the fire, Civil Protection Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis said according to Greek state news agency ANA.
He added a sixth suspect is believed to be “at large.” A local police source, who refused to be named, said that person had already fled the island.
Greek officials have said several times that the fire was started by migrants who faced isolation after testing positive for coronavirus.
With pressure growing on the EU to respond to the humanitarian crisis and help Greece, Berlin joined a European initiative to take in 400 unaccompanied minors from the burn-out camp.
In addition to accepting around 150 of the minors, Germany also plans to welcome families with children who have already secured refugee status in Greece but may not be from the Moria camp, according to a plan agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, government sources said.
The outlines of the plan emerged as German cities and towns urged Berlin to do more.
Five years after the arrival in Europe of over a million asylum seekers, many fleeing war in Iraq and Syria, the question on how the bloc should share out its refugee responsibilities remains a sensitive one.
Opposition from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia over taking on refugees has been a major stumbling block in the EU’s attempt to reform its migration and asylum policies.
Even in Germany, politicians are wary of seeing the same scenes of huge migrant arrivals than in 2015, which the far-right capitalised on to gain a foothold in parliament.
This time round, Merkel’s government has repeatedly insisted it is key to find a European solution to the issue rather than going it alone.
European Council chief Charles Michel, in Athens for talks with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said that the EU must provide a “just, strong and efficient response” to the problem.
Meanwhile in Lesbos, authorities were rushing to set up a new, temporary shelter, while locals prepared to stage an anti-migrant protest.
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