Young migrants trade Greek camps for Belgium

Eighteen unaccompanied minors from migrant camps in Greece arrived in Belgium on Tuesday as part of an EU relocation programme, the federal agency for the reception of asylum seekers said.

The Belgian government agreed in May to take in the children, who had been in the camps for several months without a parent or guardian.  

The youngest in the group, which includes just one girl, is nine years old while the oldest has just turned 18. 

The youngsters, who were all were tested for COVID-19 before their departure, are from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Somalia and Guinea, according to the Fedasil agency. 

They were admitted to a centre for unaccompanied minors while Belgium examines their asylum requests. 

Ten other EU member states  — Bulgaria, France, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Lithuania and Slovenia — are participating in the programme and have committed to welcoming up to 2,000 unaccompanied children and adolescents. 

Norway has also expressed a willingness to join, according to the Commission.

More than 200 have already arrived since April in Luxembourg, Germany, Portugal and Finland. 

Germany also pledged to take care of 243 seriously ill or particularly vulnerable children and members of their immediate family — more than 920 people in total. 

Portugal will take in 500 unaccompanied minors and France 350, according to the Commission. 

Some 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents were in Greece in March. 

About 10 percent of them are under 14 years of age while most are between 16 and 18. More than 90 percent are boys. 

The three most represented countries of origin are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.