Together with 65 human rights and humanitarian organisations, Destination Unknown calls on EU Member States to immediately commit to the emergency relocation of unaccompanied children from the Greek islands to other European countries, giving precedence to existing family links and the best interests of the child. Action is all the more urgent in light of the escalating violence on Lesbos and as increased arrivals to the islands could lead to further deterioration of the dangerous conditions in the camps.
Over 1,800 unaccompanied children live in the EU hotspots – Reception and Identification Centers - on the Greek islands. Children are deprived of access to their most basic rights such as shelter, water, food, medical and psychosocial care, as well as education.
If each EU Member State relocated just 70 unaccompanied children, these children would no longer be homeless and living in inhumane conditions on the Greek islands.
In October 2019, Greece's Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis sent a letter to all other European Union governments asking them to share responsibility by voluntarily relocating 2,500 unaccompanied children from Greece. By 6 November 2019, only one country had responded.
However, several EU Member States have proven that where there’s a will, there’s a way. France recently committed to accepting 400 asylum seekers. Mayors in Germany have expressed their willingness to relocate individuals from the islands, along with Finland and Ireland, while Serbia and Greece have recently initiated discussion on the transfer for 100 unaccompanied children, providing a basis for further solidarity.
This shows change is possible and within reach. The time for action is now. Europe must place these children at its heart and guarantee their rights are upheld in full and without exception.
Picture: Children in a reception centre in Greece in 2016. ©Tdh/Angélique Bühlmann