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24 unaccompanied minors relocated to Finland from Greek refugee camps

Finland has committed to taking in a total of 175 refugees from Mediterranean countries in the months ahead. 

Kaksi pakolaispoikaa Afganistanista Lesboksen saarella Kara Tepen pakolaisleirillä.
Asylum seekers from Afghanistan on the island of Lesbos at the Kara Tepe refugee camp in 2017. Image: Peter Klaunzer / EPA

A total of 24 unaccompanied minors aged 10-16 were relocated from Greece to Finland on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Finnish Immigration Service Migri. Most of them are from Afghanistan.

In May, the authorities had said that Finland will be taking in the first group of 25 children from Mediterranean refugee camps in June, but the original timeline did not hold due to practical reasons, according to Migri.

Altogether 49 unaccompanied children were relocated from Greece to Portugal and Finland between 7 and 8 July to start a new life, according to a release by the European Commission Representation in Finland.

According to international news agencies, 25 minors flew from Athens to Portugal on Tuesday.

Kids in quarantine

According to Migri, special relocation arrangements were made due to the coronavirus situation. Each asylum seeker underwent a medical examination, including a coronavirus test, prior to the transfer. Everyone will also have a health check after arriving in Finland.

Arrangements are also being made to quarantine the asylum seekers for 14 days in a group home before they move to special reception centres for minors, the authorities said.

Migri has increased capacity at existing reception centres for minors in Espoo, Kotka, Oravais (Oravainen in Finnish) and Oulu. Additionally, there are plans to set up new group home in Sipoo.

Relocation in phases

The transfer marked the beginning of the main phase of a programme to relocate asylum seekers from the region. It was coordinated by the European Commission together with the Greek authorities.

The relocation will be carried out in phases in the coming months. Eighteen children will find new homes in Belgium, 50 in France, 106 in Germany — including siblings and parents -- four in Slovenia and two in Lithuania.

The original aim of the arrangement was to relocate at least 1,600 children and young people. However, EU member states have pledged to take in a total of 2,000.

Finland taking in 100 children

The Finnish government has committed to taking a total of 175 asylum seekers from Mediterranean countries, most of whom will arrive in Finland in the coming months.

A total of 100 vulnerable children will be relocated from refugee camps in Greece, 26 from Malta and about 30 from Cyprus.

Finland has received 12 million euros from the EU to cover the costs.

According to the European Commission, the main target group of the relocation plans is unaccompanied children, but it will also include children with severe medical conditions and their core family members.

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