Greece: Huge Rise in Detention of Migrant Children

Unaccompanied children line up for an evening meal at a detention facility run by the Greek police.

© 2015 Kelly Lynn Lunde


(Athens) – The number of unaccompanied migrant children held in unsuitable police cells and detention centers in Greece has increased alarmingly, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas.


According to the National Center for Social Solidarity, a government body, as of July 19, 2017, an estimated 117 children were in police custody awaiting transfer to a shelter. That number is in stark contrast to November 2016, when only two unaccompanied children were detained. The Greek government should take urgent action to reduce the number of unaccompanied migrant children in police custody, Human Rights Watch said.


“Instead of being cared for, dozens of vulnerable children are locked in dirty, crowded police cells and other detention facilities across Greece, in some cases with unrelated adults,” said Eva Cossé, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Greek government has a duty to end this abusive practice and make sure these vulnerable kids get the care and protection they need.”



Human Rights Watch also highlighted the fact that the decision by the European Commission to transfer responsibility and European Union funding for managing unaccompanied migrant children from nongovernmental groups to the Greek government is likely to exacerbate the shortage of suitable shelter space for unaccompanied children. Nongovernmental groups say that the shift means that at least five shelters for unaccompanied children in Greece will be closed.


While they wait for placement in a shelter, unaccompanied children can be held for weeks or months in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, sometimes with unrelated adults, in small police station cells and detention centers where they have little access to basic care and…

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