The Greek Ombudsman for children met today with NGOs and local authorities in Lesvos, in order to discuss the issue of unaccompanied minors. The meeting focused on:
1) Unwillingness of minors to report their age and status in Greece since they consider it a transit country
2) Deficiencies in identifying and recording unaccompanied minors especially during busy arrival periods
3) Deficiencies of reception structures, under-resourced volunteers and local authorities. Reception structures remain exceptionally underdeveloped in Greece. Reception centres are seriously overpopulated and police presence is traumatic for children.
4) Deficiencies in the care system and absence of sensible legal context.
The conditions under which children migrants – even those accompanied by their families- make the journey from the shores of Turkey to the Greek-FYROM borders are particularly worrying. They are the most vulnerable persons at sea and the most likely victims in every single incident. Individuals who are implicated in rescue operations repeatedly report facing dilemmas over ‘who to save, children or their parents’, knowing that in both cases they have failed unless both children and their carers are rescued. Children are vulnerable in multiple ways since not only they are the ones most likely to die at sea, but also the ones most likely to suffer severely should their parents die.