By concluding the EU-Turkey deal last year, many people who arrived on the Greek islands were forced to stay there. This resulted in overcrowded accommodations, and access to basic facilities such as food, water, healthcare and protection of children can no longer be guaranteed.
Unsafe conditions for unaccompanied minors
Research by UNICEF has shown that over 2,000 unaccompanied minors are registered as asylum seekers in Greece, including on the islands. These children cannot count on a network to protect them in unsafe situations. In addition, some of these unaccompanied minors are falsely identified as adults, as a result of which they are placed in accommodations between adults, and become vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
Refugee children with psychological children
The conditions in which these children live also make them vulnerable to psychological problems. Research by Save the Children shows an increase in depression, self-harm and suicide attempts among children in the refugee camps. Children also start using drugs to cope with the seemingly desperate situation on the Greek islands. With the deteriorating conditions, we see an increase in racist and xenophobic incidents, like violent actions against asylum seekers, including children, by the local population, and by new racist and extremist groups that spread fear and insecurity.
Calling on the government
With winter setting in, and thousands of children stuck on the islands, it becomes clear that the Greek government cannot provide the refugees with the basic needs nor can they provide them with proper protection as long as they stay on the islands. To improve the safety and protection of the refugee children, they therefore need to get access to facilities in mainland Greece, and be provided with support there. There is a need to ensure proper accommodations, basic facilities and proper psychological care in mainland Greece for all children that are currently stuck on the islands.
Together with other human rights and humanitarian organisations, Terre des Hommes has called on the government to take action to change the appalling situation of the refugees on the Greek islands.