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Society

Greece Struggles to Deal With Unaccompanied Refugee Minors

November 22, 2019

ATHENS – Adding to a chorus of complaints, Greece’s National Center of Social Solidarity said only 25 percent of 4,962 unaccompanied minors are being housed in humane conditions at detention centers and camps.

Among other problems, they have only limited access to basic housing, food and water, and lack of legal representation, the organizations said at a presentation, the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (ANA-MPA) said.

“Some 1,117 unaccompanied minors live at the Moria hotspot (Lesvos island), of whom 140 live in long-term accommodation facilities and 350 in slightly better facilities there, yet none of them have access to translators, welfare officers or psychologists,” said Elina Sarantou of HIAS, a Jewish-American nonprofit organization that provides humanitarian aid and assistance to refugees.

“The most shocking data, however,” added Gavriil Sakellaridis, Greece Director of Amnesty International, “is that some 1,200 unaccompanied minors have gone missing and are most likely exposed to serious perils, wandering beyond and away from official protection systems.”

Nearly half of all recorded refugee population in 2018 were children, the international humanitarian organizations said, and in Greece children continue to account for one third of all migrant arrivals, based on 2019 figures so far.

In August, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said other European Union countries who closed their borders to refugees and migrants should do more to help.

There were more than 1,100 of the minors in the camps, said UNICEF. “We continue to appeal to Greek authorities to transfer children to adequate accommodation on the mainland, but Greece cannot support refugee and migrant children alone,” UNICEF’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia Afshan Khan said from the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, reported Kathimerini.

“It is vital that European governments increase pledges to relocate unaccompanied and separated refugee and migrant children, and fast-track family reunifications for those who already have relatives in Europe,” she added.

That came after a 15-year-old Afghan boy was stabbed to death at the notorious Moria camp on the island of Lesbos that the BBC called “the worst in the world” and with the new New Democracy government yet not acting to make improvements.

“This latest tragedy is a stark reminder that the situation in reception centers in Greece is at a breaking-point,” Khan said, joining a chorus of other groups who have been ignored by successive administrations and with the EU doing little to help.

Built to house 3,000 people, the Moria facility is hosting more than 8,700, including some 3,000 children, according to UNICEF. There are 520 unaccompanied children at a special section of the camp which was made to hold 160. Overall, Greece is hosting more than 32,000 child migrants of whom 4,100 were unaccompanied at that time.

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