The Labor and Social Affairs Ministry is seeking ways to improve living conditions for thousands of refugee children staying in Greece without a parent or guardian as they wait to either be granted asylum or reunited with family in other parts of Europe.
In an announcement on Tuesday, the ministry’s deputy for social solidarity issues, Domna Michailidou, said that the priority is to get as many unaccompanied minors who are trapped at overcrowded and unsuitable island camps as possible transferred to the mainland. She added that she will also be sending an urgent appeal to the European Commission within the week for additional funding to help the International Organization for Migration (IOM) continue renting out hotels that are used to accommodate vulnerable refugees and migrants.
“The number of unaccompanied minors in Greece keeps rising, putting an enormous amount of pressure on the country’s child protection mechanisms,” Michailidou warned, saying that according to official figures there were 4,501 unaccompanied children in the country at the end of September.
“The spots at accommodation centers are insufficient to meet the requirements, while alternative forms of accommodation, such as temporary hotel leases, cannot be fully exploited because of the previous government’s slipshod plan that resulted in the premature suspension of their operation,” she added.
The ministry official said that she will also seek to tap into the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund for resources to bankroll the drive for more mainland accommodation for children, as well as looking into state-owned buildings that can be used for this purpose, in cooperation with nongovernmental organizations that are already active in this field.
Last but not least, Michailidou said her department will also explore the possibility of developing alternatives to simply providing accommodation, such as fostering.