Activists Urge Greece to Release Migrant Children

ATHENS – Human rights activists are urging the government of Greece to release 276 unaccompanied migrant children from police detention cells. Human Rights Watch is leading the appeal, saying the children’s continued detention is a breach of both local and international laws.

Back in November, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis launched an ambitious campaign, promising to leave no migrant child unprotected.

And in the months that followed, hundreds of them  trapped in Greece, alone for up to a year, have been resettled to the heart of Europe, re-uniting with their families.

But news of their ordeal has not stopped more migrants from making their way to the country from Turkey.

But news of their ordeal has not stopped more migrants from making their way to the country from Turkey.

And now the international Human Rights Watch group warns there are more minors being kept behind bars in Greece than when Mitsotakis made his “No Child Alone” pledge, bringing the total number of detained migrant children to nearly 300.

Eva Cosse of the Human Rights Watch group says all of the minors in question are being kept in police cells and detention centers without real cause — mainly because refugee camps across the country remain overcrowded.

The activist tells VOA such conditions make the migrant children so much more vulnerable.

“They are detained in dirty police center cells, usually in the basement of police stations with no access to natural light, no access to a clean facility. And some times they are detained with older, adult detainees which puts them at risk of exploitation and abuse,” said Cosse.

 

The United Nations’ refugee agency has voiced similar concerns, especially as refugee flows surged by nearly 300 percent last year, reaching 60,000 — twice the number of those who managed to sneak into Greece in 2018.

But since then, inflows had decreased dramatically largely because of increased patrols along the Aegean waterway that separates Greece from Turkey.

Both countries have also closed their borders to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it more difficult for smugglers to sneak into Greece, an EU-member state.

But the grim facts concerning migrant minors remain staggering.

State and U.N. statistics show that they count 5,000 in Greece, double their number two years ago.

Just one in five live in special, secured facilities. The overwhelming majority left to linger in overcrowded refugee camps where Just one in five live in special, secured facilities. The overwhelming majority left to linger in overcrowded refugee camps where some of the children have said they have been bitten by scorpions, rats and snakes, and preyed upon by organized criminal gangs and sex traffickers.

Most alarmingly, aid workers warn, a fifth of the minors documented since entering the county have gone missing, leaving no trace or track of their whereabouts behind.

Greek migration officials contacted by VOA in Athens were not available for comment.

But with the coronavirus crisis subsiding and Greece, like other countries, relaxing border controls, experts fear migration flows will surge anew, and aggravate conditions, especially for the children.

 

Source: Voice of America