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Germany To Take In About 1,500 Migrants From Greek Islands

BERLIN: Germany wants to take in about 1,500 migrants stranded on Greek islands after a fire destroyed an overcrowded camp, government sources said on Tuesday, in a gesture of solidarity with its fellow European Union member state.

The decision by Chancellor Angela Merkel follows a rise in opinion polls by her conservative party, at the expense of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, after what is widely seen as her steady handling of the coronavirus crisis.

More than 12,000 people, mostly asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Africa and Syria, were left without shelter, proper sanitation or access to food after a fire destroyed the Moria migrant camp on the island of Lesbos last week.

The German government sources told Reuters that Germany would house migrants whose asylum applications have already been accepted and had been on Lesbos.

An interior ministry spokesman said a proposal had been made which conservative members of parliament would discuss later on Tuesday, and sources in their Social Democrat coalition partners later said they had agreed to the plan.

Greece has long been burdened by the number of migrants arriving by sea, and there are around 30,000 refugees and migrants on the Greek islands.

The issue of migration continues to divide the EU, which has failed to craft a common asylum policy five years after Merkel opened Germany’s doors to 1.2 million people seeking protection.

The AfD entered German parliament for the first time two years later, and is the main opposition party.

Newspaper Bild reported that Germany would take 408 families from the Greek islands, most of them parents with children, from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, making a total of 1,552 people. They are in addition to the 100-150 children Germany has already agreed to take.

Polls show a majority of Germans favour welcoming migrants who need protection, and she and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer have faced calls from regional and local politicians to ease the burden on Greece by taking in migrants.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Escritt and Holger Hansen, Writing by Michelle Adair and Joseph Nasr, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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