100 Million, with the Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions & 63 other human rights, humanitarian and CSOs, calls on EU to urgently relocate unaccompanied refugee children from the Greek islands to safety.
All over the world, thousands of children are forced to flee from war or disaster without the most basic protection of their family. Alone, they take the same routes as others fleeing home, but have to rely on strangers to protect them, or their own ability to get them through challenging situations. When they reach a safer country, they then have to navigate complex procedures to apply for asylum, and often have to endure months or years living in dangerous conditions - but many children are being failed by States and inter-governmental agencies to receive the support and protection they need in these situations.
In Europe, children have been arriving from conflict zones across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa for well over five years, with many having already been given protection by EU Member States. However, the situation for children currently living in the refugee settlements on the Greek Islands has become dire. The formal camps are well over capacity - officially, the camps on the islands can accommodate 6,000 people, but almost 40,000 refugees are crowded into and around these spaces. Many children cannot secure a place in specialised accommodation for unaccompanied children, and are forced to face unsanitary and dangerous conditions, with large numbers of children sleeping in makeshift shelters or even outdoors. At present, there are over 1,800 unaccompanied children living on the Greek islands, with that number likely to increase in the coming weeks and months.
Any child forced to flee their home is entitled to have all their rights delivered, as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as to the additional rights to protection and humanitarian assistance. However, lone children living in these camps are being deprived of their fundamental rights, such as access to shelter, water, food, medical, and psychosocial – mental health – care, as well as education. They are exposed to inhuman and degrading living conditions. Psychologists working with unaccompanied children on Lesbos have told the media that an increasing number of children are harming themselves and attempting suicide. Unaccompanied children interviewed by one of the groups reported anxiety, depression, recurrent headaches, and insomnia. These camps are no place for any child, let alone vulnerable children living without the protection of family.
We stand with the lone refugee children of the Greek islands and the 64 other organisations demanding that European countries should take their share of responsibility and offer protection to these children immediately. 1,800 children, across every member state, is a tiny number, and the European Union should do better: when these camps are no place for a child, it is unacceptable that the EU has no place for them either.
Read the statement in full here.