Every child in Greece deserves the opportunity to thrive.
Whether they live in the town they were born or were forced to flee to Greece in search of safety and security, children have the right to a roof over their head and to feel loved and protected.
There is no reason why every child in Greece cannot feel safe and secure. Yet thousands of children who call the country their home – including unaccompanied migrant children – are blocked from experiencing this.
As of January 2020, there are 5,463 unaccompanied children currently registered in Greece, although the real number is likely much higher. Of these children, 1,077 are living in precarious conditions or are homeless altogether – placing their safety and welfare at immediate risk.
Combined with their struggle to access healthcare, education and other public services, unaccompanied migrant children are being denied their chance to shine and fulfil their potential.
Greek Prime Minister must take action
Terre des Hommes, with 19 other organisations, have written to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to demand action on this to ensure that all children in Greece, including unaccompanied children, are supported and protected.
Firstly, a single, comprehensive system to support and protect all children living in Greece – regardless of where they are from – should be set up to ensure all children are treated equally.
Secondly, more places in shelters and permanent accommodation should be made available for unaccompanied children. A Greece where no unaccompanied children in the camps sleep rough is possible, and the Greek government can make it happen by moving all unaccompanied children out of temporary structures and into quality accommodation.
Thirdly, every unaccompanied child in Greece has the right to a legal guardian to make sure their rights are respected. The Greek government can protect these children by ensuring each one has such a guardian.
Finally, any child currently incarcerated in detention centres or police stations solely because they are a migrant must be released at once. Children deserve to be cared for, not incarcerated in conditions which can drive them to self-harm and even suicide.
All children in Greece, including those from migrant backgrounds, are capable of great things. It is now up to the Greek government to nurture them and guarantee they can fulfil their potential.
Picture: A child in a Terre des Hommes reception centre in mainland Greece. ©Tdh/Angélique Bühlmann