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04 July 2016
On the 23rd of June, Human Rights Watch (hereafter HRW) released a report on the Pozzallo hotspot in Italy. In the report, the overcrowded and unsafe conditions separated children find themselves in, are described. The Pozzallo centre is one of the EU designated hotspots for the screening of asylum seekers who reach Italy overseas.
In a SCEP statement, the members of the Separated Children in Europe Programme already expressed their serious concerns regarding the hotspot locations in Greece. SCEP calls on all the EU Member States to respect the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), specifically in this instance the Child's right to Survival and Development (Article 6).
No place for a child
"Pozzallo is no place for a child, much less for extended periods of time," said HRW's Judith Sunderland. "It is unacceptable that young, vulnerable children without family members remain there for weeks, while adults are normally transferred within three days". Delays in transferring children appear primarily due to the chronic lack of capacity in dedicated shelters for separated children and the absence of a national database revealing the available spots.
When HRW visited the centre in the beginning of June it held 365 people, over double its capacity, of whom 185 were separated children. The centre has not enough space to host all these children resulting that some of them have to sleep on the floor in areas not specially designated for children, sometimes near unrelated adult men. Young girls describe in the report that they are constantly (sexual) harassed by adult men.
Call for child friendly centres
HRW calls for the creation of first-arrival centres specifically designed for separated children and a national database to track the number of available places at longer-term centres. In addition, HRW calls on the European Commission to ensure that separated children are not held in EU-sponsored hotspots for longer than what is strictly necessary and that the operation of these hotspots is consistent with the EU Action Plan and international human rights law.