12 March 2020 - Greece

Save the Children: European countries must bring more migrant and refugee children from Greece to safety

STATEMENT

Today (Thursday 12th March 2020) European Union Migration Commissioner Johansson has travelled to Greece to set-up an initiative to relocate unaccompanied migrant and refugee children. 

Save the Children strongly welcomes the Commissioner’s commitment to improving the situation of migrant and refugee children, including the announcement of a conference in May to discuss the relocation of migrant and refugee children from Greece.

More than 40,000 people re currently stuck in overcrowded camps in the Greek islands – about four out of them of them are children – living in inhumane conditions with reports of deteriorating physical and mental health. Arrivals by boat to Lesbos and other Greek Aegean islands on boats from Turkey have also increased, placing more pressure on overwhelmed migrant camps which are struggling to cope. In Greece, there are more than 5000 unaccompanied and migrant children, most of them living in squalid conditions on either the islands or the mainland.

Tens of thousands of people, including children and families, have gathered at the Greece-Turkey border over the past week. Many of these people are sleeping outside in harsh conditions with limited access to shelter and basic services. Families with young children and babies are struggling without essential supplies, including baby food and diapers.

 Save the Children Europe Director Anita Bay said:

We strongly welcome the commissioner’s commitment to the situation of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children in Greece. We encourage all EU member states to step up their engagement so more unaccompanied children from both the Greek islands and mainland can find safety elsewhere.  We also urge EU member states to work together to find long-term solutions for the 42,000 people, many of them families with young children, that are stuck on the Greek islands without proper food, shelter or health care. This should include as a priority a system for responsibility sharing between European member states. Save the Children has supported the relocation of children from Italy and stands ready to contribute, with its expertise on child protection, to the relocation of children from Greece.

“We are gravely concerned about the treatment of migrants and refugees by the EU and Greece. Reports of people – including children- being locked-up and deported without due process, violent pushbacks at the borders and the consistent use of military language show an EU that has abandoned its role as a global standard bearer for human rights.

“The right to asylum is a fundamental right, written down in both the Geneva Conventions and the founding treaties of the EU. How Europe treats migrants and refugees has repercussions on how they are treated elsewhere. We therefore hope that the visit and remarks of Commissioner Johansson n Greece represent the beginning of a more humane cooperation that puts the protection of people first.”

Notes to Editors:

Save the Children staff in Turkey are monitoring the situation closely and consulting with partners to explore ways to respond to the needs at the Turkish-Greek border.