Working under the watch of their parents or exploited by so-called family friends

Eleni from Albania is 10. Every day after school for the past two years, she has gone to Monastiraki Square to earn her keep. Her mother is not far away. Eleni sells teddy bears that say «I love you» and cigarette lighters to passers-by and to customers from the shops around the square. Her 7-year-old brother (she has five brothers) plays the accordion. Another brother, 13, has been playing music for three years in the street and brings in the most money. Now, with the help of Arsis, he has enrolled in the Music Junior High School of Ilion. Of her two older brothers, the 16-year-old left school because he had been absent too often. Now the family thinks he should find a job to help out. The eldest, 17, is also seeking work. Last week Kathimerini visited the square where the daughter works. «What do you want to be when you grow up?» we asked. «A teacher or a gym trainer. I want to finish high school.» She is also keen on English. Her parents speak little Greek. Her mother, speaking in the presence of the Arsis social worker, said she had to send her children out to work because she herself had difficulty finding a job, and that she did it so they wouldn’t be led into illegal activities. Her husband works as a casual laborer on building sites. «If we had regular jobs, we wouldn’t have to send the children out to work,» she told Kathimerini. The children are reluctant to speak, but when they do they know what to say. They have learned from talking to people everyday. The girl says she doesn’t miss playing because she has made friends at school and they play in her neighborhood. The next case in which Arsis acted is different. Aris, 18, came to Greece two years ago from Albania with his brother, 13, accompanied by someone who was supposedly a family friend. Every day for two years, from morning till night, he worked selling small items on the streets of Athens. The younger boy went back because he wanted to be with his family, and Aris fell prey to the supposed family friend who took the money the boy earned. He lived in an apartment in downtown Athens with another five boys who were being exploited by the trafficker, who lived in the same apartment, but under much better conditions. The eldest son of the trafficker even beat Aris in front of the police who had come to arrest the trafficker because he had concealed a sum of money he wanted to send to his family in Albania.

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