Plea for child migrant support

The Greek office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) yesterday called for the implementation of emergency measures to ensure that unaccompanied child migrants arriving at the country’s land and sea borders receive priority treatment. The arrival of increasing numbers of unaccompanied minors in Greece is a «huge problem» that merits special attention, the director of the UNHCR’s Athens office, George Tsarbopoulos, told a press conference ahead of tomorrow’s World Refugee Day. Presenting the findings of a UNHCR study on the treatment of child migrants arriving in Greece, Tsarbopoulos highlighted three priorities for the state: the creation of new reception centers, the stepping up of efforts to protect child migrants, and the immediate examination of their asylum applications. Out of 20,692 asylum applications submitted last year, only eight – or 0.04 percent – were approved. There are no separate figures for applications made by children. Other proposals include lengthening the stay of children at reception centers and providing them with interpreters and legal assistance at the border. Popular Greek singer George Dalaras, a UNHCR goodwill ambassador, said immediate action was needed. «Whether we create the conditions to integrate these children into Greek society or sentence them to a life on the fringes of society depends on our actions and the position taken by the state,» he said. The UNCHR’s Athens office is organizing a series of events on the island of Lesvos – a key entry point for thousands of would-be migrants arriving in Greece – for one week starting tomorrow, World Refugee Day. In a related development yesterday, opposition MPs condemned new rules, just approved in the European Parliament, which allow the detention of adult immigrants arriving in EU member states for up to 18 months before being expelled.