Greece urged to protect children

Some 2,000 children are drawn into child sex rings in Greece each year, United Nations officials said in Athens yesterday, adding that the government must create a national policy to protect the rights of minors. Concluding a six-day trip to Greece, Juan Miguel Petit, the special rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented his preliminary findings yesterday. «Greece has made significant progress in the area of human rights during the last decade but this has to continue, especially as far as children’s rights are concerned,» he said. The UN official highlighted shortcomings in Greece’s protection of minors, such as the conditions in which Roma, or Gypsy, children live in Votanikos, near the center of Athens. The district is to be redeveloped despite concerns by human rights groups over the forced relocation of Roma families living in the area. The City of Athens council approved the plans to build a park and a sports complex on the site yesterday. Petit said the conditions children had to endure in Votanikos were unacceptable. The head of UNICEF’s office in Greece, Lambros Kanellopoulos, revealed that research had shown some 2,000 children were being sexually exploited by organized gangs in various parts of the country. Petit said that most of the 400 children who left Albania on their own last year ended up in Greece, often with the help of traffickers. The UN official recommended that the Albanian and Greek governments cooperate more closely on the matter. He also advised the creation of a central body that would oversee the creation of a coherent policy on children’s rights in Greece so the current overlap between state organizations is avoided.

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