Europe must do more to protect child migrants in Greece, urges UNHCR chief

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has expressed his serious concerns for the safety and welfare of unaccompanied minors on the Greek island of Lesbos. He called on European states to intervene to protect these children.

After a recent visit to a migrant camp on Lesbos, Grandi said: “We cannot accept that they (refugees) live in such miserable living conditions. The conditions are very challenging and need urgent improvement.”

He went on to underline the particular vulnerability of unaccompanied children, adding: “I am very worried about children, especially children traveling alone, they are the most exposed to violence and exploitation.”

There are reportedly over 1,200 unaccompanied or separated children on the island of Lesbos, living in conditions that the UNHCR has described as “extremely worrying and unsuitable.” Although the camp has some protected areas, the overcrowding has forced many of these children to sleep in a large tent with adults. Others reportedly sleep in the city centre or other areas of the island where they have no protection.

NGOs, such as the medical charity MSF, have called for these children to be evacuated to safer and more appropriate facilities. Grandi also highlighted the “need to act quickly to find solutions for them.”

Greece’s new conservative government is taking a harder line on immigration that its predecessor. It recently announced that authorities will shut down the overcrowded refugee camps. Residents will be held instead in centres, which are due to be opened in summer 2020, until they are deported or relocated.

The government is also introducing a new asylum law, which would make it easier to arrest asylum seekers, limit access to a fair asylum processes, limit asylum seekers’ right to work, and remove the right to appeal for rejected cases.

“Patience and hospitality is now less visible than before,” Grandi told reporters in Athens.

TMP – 12/12/2019

Photo credit: Anjo Kan /

Photo caption: LESVOS, GREECE – october 14, 2015. Refugee migrants, arrived on Lesvos in dinghy boats, they wait in refugee camps for the ferry to Athens continuing their journey through Europe to seek asylum. – Image