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2,700 children without parents have arrived in Greece from the beginning of the refugee flood

26 November 2015 / 15:11:44  GRReporter
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Another unaccompanied child, a 2-year-old boy, refugee from Syria, was found a few days ago in the region of the Greek-Turkish land border in Evros, wandering all alone in the town of Orestiada. Another child, 8 years old, boarded the boat with other refugees, but there was no room in it for his parents and two other children of the family. So, the child boarded the crowded boat alone, leaving his family on the coast in Turkey.

Such are the stories of thousands of other children who are arriving in Greece alone, having lost their parents or being separated from them.

The 2-year-old Syrian child was accompanied to a children’s centre by members of the non-profit organization METAdrasi that is an operative collaborator of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and a member of the Greek network for cases of racist violence.

The main objective of the organization is to help the children be sheltered in a safe environment and then to find their parents. Over the past seven months, its members have taken care of 256 children. They first take them to the initial reception centres to register and identify them, and then they accommodate them in safe places where the trafficking networks cannot reach them. In four of the cases, METAdrasi has been able to help the children return to their families, who were in other European Union member states. The organization members accompanied them while they arrived there, having previously cooperated in the procedure of granting refugee status to the children.

From 2011 until the present day, the organization has helped about 2,700 children to arrive in safety at children's centres mainly in Athens.

In statements to the Athens News Agency, METAdrasi chairwoman Laura Papa indicated that the number of refugee children without parents is constantly growing, the reason for this being the increased refugee and immigrant influx to the Greek islands. Indicative of this trend is the number of children and teenagers who have been received in the centres over the past two months, namely 450 children compared with 40-50 children per month over the past years.

METAdrasi started its pilot operation in 2011 in the region of Orestiada in north-eastern Greece, where the immigration influx was very strong in that period. The main motive of the volunteers was to help so that the children should not stay together with adults in reception centres for immigrants. According to Laura Papa, in the first year of existence of the organization, security guards always had to accompany the group of volunteers, due to strong pressure from the traffickers who tried to take the children. "Even today children are still an easy target of these networks that want to use them in different ways," she emphasizes.

According to her, these figures are far from the actual number of children who arrive in Greece without their parents. On one hand, it is extremely difficult to establish the age of teenagers without a medical examination and on the other most of them are saying they are adults or "nephews/nieces" of someone who they actually do not know.

"The youngest child we accompanied to a children’s centre was 10 months old. In the group of minors that is generally vulnerable there is a second one that is even more vulnerable to trafficking networks, namely that of children under the age of 12," said Papa and continues,

"We received a call from the asylum office in Athens that informed us about a child who was alone in Omonia Square. This child had declared somewhere that he was 19 years old and accompanied by his uncle. When we arrived in the square, we found a scared creature, hidden in a jacket that reached below his knees. This was the first child whom our associates took care of in Athens."

METAdrasi believes that the reception centres for children are a good and safe solution for refugee children, the best option for them being to be returned to their families. However, this process takes a long time in the best case and the organization is preparing to start a new activity, namely that of placing the children in families, giving priority to those families that speak the same language as the children and have the same culture.

Tags: SocietyUnaccompanied refugee childrenTrafficking networksNon-profit organization METAfrasiRefugee flood
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