The number of unaccompanied migrant minors staying in overcrowded reception centers on the Greek islands exceeds 1,100, the highest level since the peak of the refugee crisis in early 2016, UNICEF said Thursday, calling on European countries to do more to protect vulnerable children.
“We continue to appeal to Greek authorities to transfer children to adequate accommodation on the mainland, but Greece cannot support refugee and migrant children alone,” UNICEF’s regional director for Europe and Central Asia Afshan Khan said from the agency’s headquarters in Geneva.
“It is vital that European governments increase pledges to relocate unaccompanied and separated refugee and migrant children, and fast-track family reunifications for those who already have relatives in Europe,” she added.
The agency also underlined its concern about the fatal injury of a 15-year-old Afghan boy last weekend at the hands of a compatriot of the same age in the cramped Moria camp on Lesvos. “This latest tragedy is a stark reminder that the situation in reception centers in Greece is at a breaking-point,” Khan said.
Built to house 3,000 people, the Moria facility is hosting more than 8,700, including some 3,000 children, according to UNICEF. There are 520 unaccompanied children at a special section of the camp which was made to hold 160. Overall, Greece is hosting more than 32,000 child migrants of whom 4,100 are unaccompanied.