Unaccompanied migrant children in Greece

Briefing 04-04-2022

Since the beginning of the migratory crisis in 2015, growing numbers of unaccompanied children have been seeking protection in Europe. With increased migratory pressure in Greece along the EU's external border with Turkey at the beginning of 2020, and following the Greek government's official request for support, the European Commission launched a relocation scheme to speed up relocation of unaccompanied minors from the Greek islands to other EU Member States. Human rights organisations had denounced the precarious and difficult conditions in which unaccompanied minors had been living in the Greek hotspots, calling for structural solutions in the form of more solidarity and responsibility sharing among EU Member States, and a coordinated, child rights-based approach to addressing the many gaps in the protection afforded to unaccompanied children arriving in Europe. However, recent legislative changes in Greece, such as the establishment of the Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors (SSPUAM) and a new relocation scheme, have served to improve the situation of unaccompanied minors in the country drastically. Measures include the creation of an effective and sustainable child protection system, better reception conditions, and changes to the accommodation system for unaccompanied minors. At the end of 2020, a new law put an end to the practice of detaining unaccompanied children on the sole grounds that they were homeless. This was followed in January 2021 by the introduction of an emergency response mechanism that offers children support and a safety net. This publication is an update of a briefing of May 2020 by Ingeborg Odink.