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Defence for Children publishes report on the situation for refugee children in Athens

14 December 2017

On 13 December 2017, Defence for Children published the report 'Athens, the reflection of a broken protection system for refugee children'. The report outlines the findings of a research which took place in Athens and the surrounding areas of Attika in October 2017. According to the report, Athens reflects the broken child refugee protection system in the Greek islands and the unfulfilled expectation of refugee children for a better life. The report describes the situation for children on the move, including separated children.

A broken protection system

The report states that one of the first obstacles faced by children once they arrive in Greece is the complicated and always changing legal framework. Because of ineffective implementation of the existing law, legal protection does not automatically convert into actual protection.

Another obstacle mentioned in the report specifically concerns the fact that thousands of separated children are left alone and exposed to criminal channels and human rights violations due to the lack of capacity of Public Prosecutors, who act as provisional guardians.

According to the report, there are currently 1.114 places available in reception facilities in the whole of Greece. It is estimated that 1.822 separated children are on a waiting list for shelter. The number of separated children detained in detention centres and police cells has increased alarmingly. The children are often detained in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Many children are detained while awaiting to be reunited with their families in other European countries. These children are in need of legal assistance for their asylum and family reunification processes. In addition, stronger links between European States where family members remain, are necessary.


The report provides for some recommendations for children on the move, some of which focus in particular on separated children:

There is a need for consistent legal assistance. Due to the lack of a guardianship system, refugee children need a lawyer by their side to assist them. The proper legal assistance can help refugee children to become visible in society.
There is an urgent need for improvement of the age assessment process, in line with international standards. There should be a follow-up on cases where the age has been assessed incorrectly, especially in light of the EU-Turkey deal.
There is an urgent need for improvement of the family reunification process. European States should cooperate in this regard.
A holistic approach must be applied. We must develop an approach that fosters long-term policies, with the purpose of satisfying the developmental needs of refugee children.

Separated Children in Europe Programme (SCEP) - coordinated by Defence for Children The Netherlands - PO BOX 11103 - 2301 EC - Leiden - 0031 (0)71 516 09 80 - info@scepnetwork.org