‘Limited capacity’: Belgium will take in 12 of 400 minors from Moria refugee camp
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‘Limited capacity’: Belgium will take in 12 of 400 minors from Moria refugee camp

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Belgium is willing to take in 12 unaccompanied minors who are among 12,000 people left without shelter after the squalid camp they were living in in the Greek island of Lesbos was ravaged by a fire last week.

That number accounts for 3% of the 400 children who were left without a place to stay after the blaze, and for 0.1% of the total of asylum seekers and migrants who had been living in Moria, which over the years grew to become the largest refugee camp in Europe.

A spokesperson for Asylum and Migration Minister Maggie De Block told The Brussels Times on Tuesday that Belgium will propose to receive 12 minors in an operation in which Greece was “expected to take the lead.”

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Belgium’s decision comes after the European Commission said it would fund the transfer of the 400 children out of the camp and their relocation among ten EU member states.

“On Friday we decided to take part in the Franco-German initiative to take in 400 unaccompanied children from Moria,” spokesperson Florent Baudeweyns said in a phone statement.

“The decision to receive 12 was based on our reception capacities,” Baudeweyns said, adding that Belgium’s capacity was “limited” by the fact that the country already hosted “a large number of non accompanied children.”

On Tuesday, Greek authorities said they had arrested five migrants suspected of having started the fire, saying the believed they did so in retaliation for quarantine measures imposed in the already overcrowded and insalubrious camp.

‘We have room’

In the aftermath of the fire, which reduced to ashes what German protesters have condemned as Europe’s “camp of shame,” Germany and France announced they would be taking in the bulk of the 400 children.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that both Germany and France were prepared to take in up to 150 minors each, while the Netherlands said they were willing to take in 100.

Seehofer was hit with criticism for not taking in more people from Moira even after 10 mayors said they were ready to receive asylum seekers, and a protest took place in Berlin last week during which demonstrators said Germany “had room” and demanded more people be taken out of the “camp of shame.”

It was not immediately clear if Belgium would follow in on its neighbouring countries’ footsteps and propose to take in more migrants from Moria in the future, with Baudeweyns insisting that the ball was in Greece’s court.

“Greece must now make a concrete request based on their need for support, and we will consider it based on our reception capacities and the type of public that needs to be taken in,” he said.

In the context of the 2015 migrant crisis, the Moria camp in Lesbos was built with an original capacity to shelter some 3,000 asylum seekers.

As EU states wrangled over migration for half a decade, the camp’s population swelled to reach 19,000 in January of this year, with reports that its inhabitants lived with no electricity, scarce water and among “rivers of mud.”

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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