EU plans for helping Greece relocate migrant children

COPYRIGHT: UNICEF/UNI308433/Messinis/AFP-Services Children warm themselves around a makeshift fire on a beach, after arriving on the Greek island by inflatable dinghies, on March 2, 2020.

The European Union’s human rights arm is proposing how EU member states can respond to the growing call to relocate unaccompanied migrant children from Greece.

FRA, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, is concerned that there are thousands of unaccompanied children in Greece who are living in ‘completely unsuitable’ conditions, without proper housing, at risk of violence and and facing bleak futures.

Thousands of migrant children have poured into the country via land border with Turkey in recent months, and many are Syrians escaping civil war but there are also children from Afghanistan, Pakistan and some African countries.

‘Completely unsuitable conditions’

The FRA agency has welcomed the willingness demonstrated by the European Commission and some member states for relocating these children. The EC says there are currently more than 42,000 people across the Greek islands, and of these around 1,500 are unaccompanied minors.

Ursula von der Leyden, the new EC President, recently visited Greece to present its Action Plan, which includes up to 700 million Euros in funding, rapid border interventions and a civil protection mechanism to help deliver aid quickly.

‘Simple and practical workflow’

Now the FRA has published its own report setting out practical suggestions on the feasibility of providing help to those in need. It also urges countries to quickly agree on a ‘simple and practical workflow’ so that all concerned are clear on what’s needed and there are no unnecessary delays in the relocation process. Building on lessons learned from previous mandatory and voluntary relocation schemes, the FRA suggests:

  • Identifying children for relocation
  • Appointing a guardian
  • Assessing a child’s best interests and providing information
  • Preparing the departure and transfer
  • Funding relocation

The proposals are based on research and interviews with national authorities and relevant organisations in 10 member states: Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands and Portugal.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Prime Minister of Greece, said: “For many months the Greek government has been raising the flag on the tragedy of unaccompanied children arriving in Greece. I am very pleased that the new commission president has thrown her personal support in addressing this issue.

‘The scars are not easy to heal’

“What we need is a clear demonstration of European solidarity, which should take the form of a voluntary relocation pact, by which unaccompanied minors who are currently in Greece are relocated to other European countries. The scars of the soul are not easy to heal. Let us all do what is right to help Greece address this most sensitive issue.”

The FRA plans to publish a more detailed report in May

Author: Simon Weedy

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