ATHENS – The number of unaccompanied minors in detention centers and camps in Greece was reported to be 5,463 as the government has been accused of not doing enough to help them.
The figure was provided to Parliament by Deputy Social Affairs Minister Domna Michailidou in Parliament and based on a bi-weekly report compiled by the Labor Ministry’s National Center for Social Solidarity (EKKA), with the support from UNICEF, the United Nations children agency, said Kathimerini.
Out of the total number, 92.5 percent are boys and 7.5 percent are girls, while 9 percent are under 14 years old, without parents or guardians and susceptible to abuse, human rights groups have complained to little avail.
Divided by nationality, 44 percent are from Afghanistan, 21 percent from Pakistan, 11 percent from war-torn Syria and another 24 percent are from other countries that weren’t specified.
Greece has close to 100,000 refugees and migrants, including some 42,000 on islands near Turkey which has let human traffickers continue sending them during an essentially-suspended swap deal with the European Union.
Some 2,103 children live in long-term or temporary accommodation, 1,877 in reception and identification centers, 187 in protective custody, 143 in open temporary accommodation facilities and 76 in emergency accommodation sites.
Another 1,077 children have been reported as living in informal or insecure housing conditions, such as living temporarily in apartments with others, living in squats, homeless or moving between shelters.
The numbers are based on accommodation referrals sent to the Service for the Management for Accommodation Requests of Unaccompanied Minors.
In December, 2019 rights groups said hundreds of unaccompanied children were living in “inhuman and degrading” conditions in the notorious Moria migrant camp on the island of Lesbos, putting their mental and physical well-being at risk.
Human Rights Watch researchers visited the camp in mid-October and interviewed 22 of the 1,061 unaccompanied children who were registered there at the time. The children they interviewed, the youngest of whom were age 14, described having little or no access to care and specialized services.
The camp on the Aegean Sea island has a separate section for minors who arrived without adult guardians. Because of overcrowding, most of the children Human Rights Watch interviewed were living either among Moria’s general population or just outside the camp in an olive grove where migrants and refugees have set up their own tents.
The report came three weeks after Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his government was coming to the aid of some 4,000 of them.
The No Child Alone scheme would move from island camps criticized as inhumane to better shelters and offer legal help for them to try to reunite with relatives who have traveled on to other European countries before the borders were closed to them.
The program, he said, would be managed by his own office, noting that the plight of child migrants and refugees is “a wound of the migrant crisis that we can heal immediately by ourselves,” said Kathimerini.
“Our civilization, our humanity, our sensitivity and tradition dictates that we do so,” he said at the same time he said that adult migrants ineligible for asylum are not welcome and that the door would be shut to them.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)