Twenty-five unaccompanied refugee children who were living on Greek islands travelled on Tuesday from Athens to Portugal, where they will be relocated.
The children were living on Lesvos, Chios and Samos islands and are all boys aged 14 to 16 and originate from Afghanistan, Egypt, Gambia, and Iraq.
At the Athens International Airport they were greeted by Alternate Migration & Asylum Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos, Portuguese Ambassadress to Athens Helena Furtado de Paiva and Special Secretary for Protection of Unaccompanied Minors Irini Agapidaki.
Koumoutsakos said that today's event is art of a program to relocate 1,600 unaccompanied minors to other European countries, and is supported by the European Commission. Portugal has expressed interest in relocating 500 children in general, he said, "a strong show of help for Greece, which is facing a challenge beyond its ability to cope."
The minister also said that a voluntary repatriation of 5,000 people applying for asylum with financial incentives planned by Greece and funded by the EU is ongoing. The first flight, to Iraq, will take place in a few days.
Speaking of the relocation program, Agapidaki said there is a group of 243 children with serious illnesses who will be relocated with their families in Germany. "Europe is carrying out its obligations for those with greater needs who must be protected, and the purpose of the program is not simply to have children depart the country, but to have a better future," she said.
Another 25 children will depart on Wednesday for relocation to Finland.
The relocation program is initiated by Greece, in collaboration with the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson and the help of the UN High Commission for Refugees, the International Migration Organization and the European Asylum Support Office Service.