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Some 50 asylum seekers -- including unaccompanied children -- stranded in Greece at camps with squalid living conditions were finally relocated to the U.K. on Monday to be reunited with family members.
Migrants from Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan, which included 16 unaccompanied children and 34 adults, arrived in the U.K. under a program championed by the lobbying group called Safe Passage and a former member of British Parliament, Alf Dubs.
"The conditions in the camps in #Greece are truly awful - overcrowded, unsanitary. They're no place for children or vulnerable people, especially now. I'm grateful to the Home Office and the Greek government for allowing today's passengers to escape those horrors," Dubs wrote in a statement on Twitter.
The families were reunited under the European Union's Dublin Regulation, which has allowed a refugee to be taken in by a close relative already in the country of destination.
The move was held up by lockdown restrictions due to the coronavirus, but it resumed after Greece eased limitations on May 4.
Dubs said all the refugees had tested negative for coronavirus. On the return flight, 130 Greeks who had been stranded in Britain due to the travel restrictions will be repatriated back to Greece, the Greek Migration and Asylum Ministry announced.
In total, the program has aimed to relocate about 1,600 unaccompanied refugee children to European countries. So far, Luxembourg has taken 12 children and Germany nearly 50, while Finland is set to take about 100 later this month. Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Monday that a further 22 people are to be relocated to Switzerland.
Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants, including thousands of unaccompanied children, have been living in squalid conditions in overcrowded camps on several Greek islands after arriving from the nearby Turkish coast. Many more have been housed in camps, apartments and other shelters across the mainland.
“It is proof and confirmation that modern challenges that go beyond the borders and capabilities of each country individually, are dealt with only with international cooperation and the joining of forces,” Alternate Migration and Asylum Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.