It is small wonder that we are reading the very sad and unacceptable news that a child has died in Moria camp.
Greece has been condemned for years by human rights organisations and even the European Court of Human Rights for failing to protect these children and allowing them to live in an environment manifestly unsuitable for children.
Europe is also to blame, having found Greece legally responsible for their treatment of child refugees this year, and making a legal decision that Greece had breached Europe’s human rights convention forbidding inhuman or degrading treatment, their ‘consequence’ for the Greek authorities was a paltry 4000 euros to be paid to the kids.
Human rights organisations continued to report the horrendous conditions for children in these so called ‘safe spaces’ and still, nothing is done.
In the most recent report, from just a few days ago, our friends at Refugee Rights Europe evidenced the terrible conditions for child refugees in Moria camp.
“As of July 2019, the UNHCR reports a worrying 433 unaccompanied children living in the Moria RIC. A persistent issue reported by multiple rights groups is the practice of placing unaccompanied children in so-called ‘protective custody. ARSIS, a national child protection and advocacy organisation, reports on this issue as follows: In practice unaccompanied minors are put in protective custody in police stations and police detention facilities, spending up to two, and in some cases three months, in order to be placed in an appropriate shelter. For 2017, our professionals supported a total number of 353 minors in protective custody in the area of Thessaloniki only, while for 2018 this number reached 725 minors. Currently for this year we have supported 185 minors in those conditions. Hygiene conditions are extremely poor and the minors sleep in uncleaned beds and bedlinen, they are not provided with any non-food or clothing item, nor nutrition to live up to their development needs. There is no translator available by the police to explain to them basic procedures, and access to medical services is also periodic.”
These conditions were recently found by the European Court of Human Rights to be against Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
“During 2018, HumanRights360 observed that detention of UASCs was systematically imposed and was prolonged for periods ranging from a few days to more than two months, pending their transfer to an accommodation facility. UASCs and other vulnerable persons were detained in both police stations and the RIC of Fylakio in so-called “protective custody” in unacceptable detention conditions.63 In a large number of cases, including UASCs and other vulnerable persons, there are allegations of informal forcible removals (push-backs) from Greece to Turkey at the Evros river border.”
“The situation is particularly serious in Moria on Lesvos where children spend on average five months in the hotspot before they can move to the mainland. There is an acute lack of available care, particularly mental healthcare, coupled with pervasive substance abuse amongst children, who are often experiencing severe trauma. As reported by multiple organisations, the police do not appear to have sufficient (if any) safeguarding training for the care of vulnerable children and young people, nor is there availability of translators. One organisation reported an alarming incident in which a child reported to the police that he had been sexually assaulted. In response, the police apparently went to the section where the children are housed and shouted “who raped this boy”, whilst pointing to the individual who had reported the crime.”
“An anonymous organisation describes the conditions for UASCs in Moria as such: “The overall situation for unaccompanied minors is alarming. The living conditions in the shelters are substandard and supervision is minimal and not 24/7 (supervision even differs for the two children sections as they are coordinated by different organisations; a child in the one section may for example take a guardian to see a doctor until 11pm, whereas a child in the other section depends on the time a guardian works or decides to show up). There is a huge shortage of capable caregivers (supervisors) for children. Up to mid- afternoon only two coordinators and two nurses (although this is on paper, the nurses of the sections often do not work on the times they should be working) are present for more than 300 children. Furthermore, only one psychologist is available. After the public officials leave, the police are the only point of contact for the children. Their presence causes fear among the traumatized youth. Many officers deal tactlessly and with disinterest with the youngsters. They do not speak their language and have no experience in dealing with trauma. We even see abuse of power.“
Amnesty called Moria “A scar on the Conscience of Europe’ in this report.
Small wonder then that this has now resulted in the death of one, the serious condition of another and a child who will live with the consequences, for the rest of his life. Consequences, which undoubtably arise from the conditions these children live in and the lack of care they receive. Especially mental healthcare.
We call on Greece to act. To immediately ensure that the death of this child is a catalyst to improve conditions for child refugees.
The Greek government must end the detention of children in all circumstances. Children must be provided with adequate accommodation, separate from adults, care and support at all stages of the asylum process in line with the best interests of the child, national and international law, including the immediate application of an effective guardianship system of unaccompanied children.
We call on Europe to act and recognise their responsibility in ensuring. We insist that the EU and the EC, as architects of this terrible containment policy on the Greek Islands, take responsibility and put pressure on Greece to ensure that the human rights of children are respected and upheld.
This child must not be allowed to have died in vain.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
If you would like to help to persuade Europe and Greece to make a change. Please copy and paste the text in this post and email it to;
The Prime Minister for Greece — Kyriakos Mitsotakis
Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship
Simon Mordue — Deputy Director General of the European Commission
The Greek Ombudsman
Council of Europe
Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
Melissa Fleming — Chief Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees