Germany will take in up to 500 unaccompanied minors from Greek migrant camps over the coming weeks, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday, and urged other EU countries to follow suit.

"We said (to the Greek authorities and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees) that we want to take in between 350 and 500 children in the next few weeks," Maas said in an interview with the RTL/ntv broadcaster. 

The minister said he hoped other countries would follow suit. "We want to set an example here."

Germany announced on Tuesday that it would take in 50 children from migrant camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios.

The transfers could begin next week, the interior ministry said in a statement.

The children and adolescents, who arrived at the camps without their parents, "will at first be placed in quarantine for two weeks," before being housed in various regions, the ministry said.

Tens of thousands of asylum-seekers live in dire circumstances in Greek camps, and conditions have worsened recently due to outbreaks of the coronavirus.

France, Portugal, Finland, Lithuania, Croatia and Ireland are also part of an EU programme announced at the beginning of March to take in some of the 1,600 vulnerable minors in Greek camps.

However, Maas said they were putting their plans on hold because of border restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus crisis.

"Apart from Luxembourg, we are the only ones who are still willing to accept minors," he said.

Luxembourg has already agreed to take in 12 minors.

German Development Minister Gerd Mueller has called the camps a "disgrace", urging Brussels to act to avert a "catastrophe".

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