Athens – 25 November 2019
Terre des Hommes (TDH) believes the authorities’ new plans for refugees and migrants will put at risk the mental health and well-being of thousands of children and young people.
The announcement by the government that it is considering the construction and extension of “Closed Reception and Identification Centers” and closed Pre-Removal Centers οn the Aegean islands, and looking at relocating refugees and migrants to these centres poses a significant risk to these people. The new plan also violates Article 3 of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child if it neglects to maintain the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety and health.
Εxtensive research has shown that detention intensifies the incidence of depression in children and causes symptoms of stress, including eating and sleep disturbances, neediness, withdrawal, self-harm, aggression and even suicide attempts – irrespective of the conditions and duration of detention. UNHCR data shows that since January 2018, children have represented 36 percent of the migrant and refugee arrivals in Greece.
TDH is particularly concerned about the possible impact on unaccompanied children, and is urging authorities to seek alternatives that safeguard the best interests of all children arriving at our borders. It is offering to work with the government, along with other civil society groups, to arrive at a solution based on alternative methods of care and freedom of movement rather than incarceration – while also acknowledging political objectives.
TDH is calling on the Greek government to withdraw the plan and take affirmative measures to provide adequate protection to all children. Additionally, although we welcome the decision of the prime minister to appoint a National Coordinator for the Unaccompanied Children, the recent law which stipulates that unaccompanied children over 15 years of age, cannot be categorised as vulnerable will exclude 93% of the children arriving as refugees or migrants; This will constitute a clear violation of their rights and will put them at risk of being deported with accelerated procedures, without their applications and family reunification requests being substantially examined. Therefore, the Greek authorities should review the law and refrain from treating children as adults.
Jezerca Tigani, Head of TDH’s Greece office, said: “Families and children in migration come to Greece seeking refuge while trying to escape from violence and conflict. In many cases they have already suffered trauma in their country of origin, during their journey or even after their arrival in our country. We should not contribute to their suffering and prolong their nightmare.”
TDH has been active in Greece since 2016, providing shelter, mental health and psychosocial services, legal assistance, education and life-skills to children, youth and their caregivers. These include children in detention and living on the street, victims of torture, victims of human trafficking and other types of exploitation, survivors of sexual and gender based violence and abuse. It is now implementing comprehensive Child Protection services in 9 open facilities for asylum seekers on the mainland, and also projects for the fight against trafficking in human beings, for child-friendly Justice and training of trainers all over Greece on Child Protection and Safeguarding.
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Picture: A child in a reception centre in Greece. ©Tdh Hellas