By Linda Bordoni
The new coronavirus pandemic has exposed the frailties and dramas of many who live on the edges of society or are simply part of groups or communities with little or no socio-economic protection.
This is the reality for some 1,600 unaccompanied migrants living in unacceptable conditions in refugee camps in Greece’s Aegean Sea.
Their fate is in the hands of EU leaders who are being asked to show solidarity and to deliver on their promises to relocate refugee children.
The Church’s humanitarian agency, Caritas, has repeatedly voiced its readiness to help in welcoming the children and providing host states with support.
As Leila Bodeux, Policy and Advocacy Officer at Caritas Europa told Vatican Radio, the organization welcomes the relocation of two groups of unaccompanied children from the Greek islands by Luxembourg and by Germany, but it calls on other EU states to step in and do their part as well.
“There are more than 40,000 people stuck on the Greek islands in a horrible situation,” Bodeux explained, “and the European Commission has put in place a scheme to relocate 1,600 unaccompanied minors to EU countries to provide them safety and protection.
Obviously, she added, Caritas Europa has welcomed the scheme and is very satisfied for the arrival of 12 children in Luxembourg last week, and 47 more in Germany on Saturday
“We think this is a very positive and welcome step, but more needs to happen,” she said.
Calling on EU member states to join in solidarity
She pointed out that 1,600 unaccompanied minors need to be relocated under this scheme, and that Caritas Europa is calling on other EU member states “to join the efforts of Germany and Luxembourg and relocate children in their countries, thus providing support and solidarity to Greece, but also to these migrants and refugees.”
Bodeux noted that the numbers are very small, “especially for bigger countries like France and Germany” and that Greece, “that has been doing so much for migrants and refugees for many years,” has been left unfortunately alone by many EU countries: “so that's why we think that this is the least the EU can do.”
She explained that local Caritas organizations are supporting the states in welcoming those children in the reception phases.
Advocacy and practical support
“For us, it's very important to also join practical support to the advocacy we do,” she said, reiterating that “several other Caritas offices would be ready to also step in to provide the necessary support to make sure that these children have been welcomed in the best way possible, to protect their interests and their protection needs.”
Pope Francis and the Catholic Church
Pope Francis has repeatedly called on all men and women of goodwill to “welcome, protect, promote and integrate” our brothers and sisters on the move, especially minors who are particularly vulnerable. Bodeux expressed appreciation for the impact and strength of his appeal and also for that of European bishops who have joined their voices to call for the relocation of unaccompanied minors in European countries.
“I think this is very important, (…) and I think this is very powerful, especially in countries that are perhaps reluctant to step in,” she said.
“I think a message coming from the highest level of the Vatican,” Bodeux concluded, provides much needed moral support to ensure those states do more to help these children.