More than 2,000 unaccompanied children are on the waiting list for safe shelters in Greece, according to a new report by 12 organisations. The chronic shortage of accommodation for children is just one of the gaps in services that is worsening as the Greek Government prepares to take full control of the refugee response.
The report provides an overview of the current situation on the islands as well as on the mainland. It sets out a series of recommendations for the Greek Government, EU leaders and the UN for a successful handover to address the persistent gaps in services, access to asylum and opportunities to integrate with Greek society.
While some steps have been taken to move people to the mainland, the islands remain dangerously overcrowded with many families sharing unheated tents as winter sets in. A dangerous shortage of medical and legal staff risks people’s health and has contributed to long delays in the asylum procedure. On the mainland, unaccompanied children are increasingly spending nights in police cells, in squats or on the streets because of a shortage of safe shelters.
To improve the situation, the report says a mechanism is needed to move people to accommodation on the mainland as soon as reception centres reach their capacity. It also calls for all EU states to recognise their legal and moral obligation to consider asylum claims and to relocate the most vulnerable people to other countries in Europe.
It recommends that NGOs and the Greek Government invest in more programmes that build tolerance and integration, and in Greek communities that have borne the brunt of the sudden influx. It also calls on UNCHR – the UN refugee agency - to be more vocal and take a stand against the policies and practices being implemented in Greece that reduce standards and minimize safeguards in the reception, asylum and returns procedures.