EU relocates nearly 100 vulnerable asylum seekers from Greece, Cyprus

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Nearly 100 vulnerable asylum seekers including minors have been relocated from Greece and Cyprus to Germany and Finland, the EU’s asylum coordination agency said Wednesday.

The first relocation - of 83 people from families with seriously ill children from Greece to Germany - took place on July 24, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) said.

This was part of an ongoing EU scheme to relocate 1,600 minors to various European countries.

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In a separate move not part of the EU initiative, 16 Somalis and Congolese from single-parent families were relocated from Cyprus to Finland on July 27.

All were tested for COVID-19 before leaving Cyprus and Greece, EASO said.

The program is supported by the European Commission, the UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration.

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Greece has some 5,000 migrant minors, most of them living in unsanitary conditions in refugee camps, or in housing not suitable for them.

Greek islands lying close to Turkey have in particular been swamped by asylum seekers, and squalid camps have sprung up, fueling tension with local populations.

Greek authorities have kept island camps under coronavirus lockdown since March, prompting criticism from rights groups.

Tens of thousands of asylum seekers have been blocked in Greece since 2016 when many European states shut their borders in response to a surge in migration and refugees, mainly from war-torn Syria.

Around a dozen European countries have agreed to make an exception for minors.

A small number have already relocated to Portugal, Luxembourg and Germany.

Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Serbia and Switzerland have agreed to welcome some as well.

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