SRSG Maalla M’jid in Greece: “Children on the move are first and foremost children and their rights move with them!"

Athens, Greece 17 May 2022 - SRSG Maalla M’jid has concluded a four-day visit to Greece commending the Government efforts and steady steps to enhance the protection of unaccompanied children on the move. 

On her first day in Greece, the Special Representative met with the Minister of Migration and Asylum and learned about the Government National Response Mechanism for Unaccompanied Children living in precarious conditions. A multi-disciplinary structure operated by the Greek State’s Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors, supported by UNHCR experts, NGOs Arsis and the Network for Children’s Rights-that operate field mobile units and information desks and METAdrasi provides tele-interpretation services. Early detection clearly open wide opportunities for effective protection.  

Greece’s efforts to ensure a comprehensive safety net for detection, referral, care and protection functioning 24/7 to protect these children from violence is a step in the right direction and an opportunity to replicate good lessons learned by other EU peer countries. Refugee children need what every child needs: a safe environment where they can grow and thrive. And children can only reach their full potential when they feel protected and supported in an integral manner.” said SRSG Maalla M’jid.

During her visit, the SRSG met also with the Ministries of Justice, of Labour and Social Affairs and of Citizen Protection. “Preventing violence against all children independently of their status and nationality requires a multi-sectoral approach to address gaps in delivery comprehensive timely and child centered services like food, health and housing.

It is all more crucial as the numbers of children on the move, including migrants, asylum-seeking and refugees tend to grow because multifaceted and complex crisis, such as the Ukrainian crisis. Proper planning and multi-sectoral actions are needed to ensure the successful protection and integration of all children independently from their origin. A youth from Greece said “tomorrow I am turning 18 and I will continue being the same person with the same protection challenges and needs for a while. The life cycle approach is critical for effective protection from violence.” 

SRSG Maalla Mjid visited different projects by civil society organizations including the Network for Children’s Rights and the Society for the Care of Minors and Youth supporting children on the move. 

She also visited a home shelter for children coming from institutions who are accompanied with guardians from Ukraine. During the visit she discussed the plans for the mid-term and long-term solutions for these children including with the Consul of Ukraine in Athens. 
During the visits the SRSG highlighted the importance of efficient tracking, information sharing and coordination between Ukraine and Greece and advocated for the country to become a champion in the integration of children on the move. The intersectionality of violence require combination of a multifaceted variety of care support throughout all the chain of  violence prevention and protection services  for all children in the country, leaving no child behind.  

“Promote enhanced cooperation at global, regional, and national levels to accelerate protection, integration and ending child immigration detention across regions in line with the international human rights framework including the Global Compacts on Migrants and Refugees is a paramount”. 

In her visit to the Ritsona Camp, numerous asylum seekers and refugee children and parents including from Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Syria and Afghanistan shared their challenging situation and uncertainty about their future. While efforts for accelerating asylum procedures in third countries and ensuring durable solutions are acknowledged, integration and real opportunities for rebuilding lives are still not within reach. “We have dreams! I want to be an artist. I want to be a doctor like you for sure We feel despair, will our dreams come true?! “– girls from Afghanistan stressed.   

The continuing commitment by Greece to realizing the rights of children enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and reaching the Sustainable Development Goals, now presents with a unique opportunity to show leadership in strengthening and investing in child and gender sensitive violence prevention and protection systems, accessible to all children, independently of their status.”