Children from Greek migrant camps begin new life in Belgium
Flemish cities welcomed the arrival of 18 children this week and have urged the federal government to accept more
Belgium was one of 11 European Union states that responded to a call in March to find homes for roughly 1,600 minors living in Greek migrant camps. All of them are without parents or other adults to look after them.
The group that arrived this week consists of 17 boys and one girl. The youngest is nine years old, and the oldest has just turned 18. They come from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Somalia and Guinea. All of the youngsters tested negative for Covid-19 before they left for Belgium and have had health checks on arrival.
When the next group of children are brought over, we will welcome some of them to Bruges with open arms
They will first spend two to four weeks in a centre for unaccompanied minors for observation and orientation. They then move on to reception facilities provided by the federal government, the Red Cross or one of the Flemish communities. During this process their asylum applications will also be examined.
The move to find new homes for unaccompanied child migrants is supported by a coalition of Flemish cities and municipalities, which currently includes Bruges, Ghent, Halle, Leuven, Lichtervelde and Veurne.
“We welcome these 18 children and wish them good luck,” said Bruges mayor Dirk De fauw (CD&V). “When the next group of children are brought over, we will welcome some of them to Bruges with open arms and accept them into our city.”
It’s a beautiful expression of European solidarity, but Belgium can definitely do more
Lies Corneillie, Leuven’s city councillor for global policy, also wanted to send a message to the federal government. “The city of Leuven wants to make a special effort to show solidarity with Greece and the vulnerable people in the camps.”
In recent months, a campaign has been running under the banner #ikbensolidair (in solidarity) to increase community support for vulnerable migrants to come to Belgium.
“We think it’s a very positive thing that Belgium is bringing over these 18 children,” said campaign spokesperson Eef Heylighen of Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen. “It’s a beautiful expression of European solidarity, but Belgium can definitely do more.”
Photo courtesy Fedasil