Children look at the photographer as Pope Francis delivers a speech at the Moria refugee camp near the port of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, Greece, April 16, 2016. EPA/FILIPPO MONTEFORTE /POOL
Children look at the photographer as Pope Francis delivers a speech at the Moria refugee camp near the port of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, Greece, April 16, 2016. EPA/FILIPPO MONTEFORTE /POOL

Child asylum seekers in Greece have been denied an education due to migration policies confining them on the Aegean islands, Human Rights Watch has denounced. The organization asked Athens to scrap its containment policy.

The organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has denounced in a new report that Greece is denying an education to thousands of children who are asylum seekers due to a migration policy backed by the European Union that blocks them on the Aegean islands. 


In the report called "'Without Education They Lose Their Future': Denial of Education to Child Asylum Seekers on the Greek Islands", HRW reported that less than 15 percent of over 3,000 school age children who are asylum seekers on the islands were enrolled in public school at the end of the 2017-2018.

'Blocking children violates Greek laws' 

In order to draft the report, Human Rights Watch interviewed 107 school-age children who are asylum seekers or migrants on Greece's islands, education ministry officials, UN personnel and local support groups. 

Bill Van Esveld, a HRW researcher for children's rights, said Greece should abandon its policy to confine asylum seekers and their families on the islands, since the government for two years has been unable to give these children an education. "Blocking children on the islands where they can't go to school damages them and violates Greece's laws", he said. 

Greece's government adopted a policy supported by the EU that says asylum seekers arriving by sea from Turkey should stay on the islands until their application is processed. This policy was agreed upon under the EU-Turkey deal from March 2016. 

The process was meant to be fast and the vulnerable categories were meant to be exempted but Human Rights Watch has interviewed families that have been stranded for up to 11 months at the camps. The organization stressed that the government moved over 10,000 asylum seekers to the continent from November, refusing to end the policy. 

'Less than two months to ensure an education' 

Under Greek law, education is free and mandatory for children between the ages of 5 and 15, including child asylum seekers.On July 9, the education ministry told Human Rights Watch that it expects to open 15 additional classes for underage asylum seekers on the islands for the year 2018-2019. This would be a positive step but, according to the organization, it would leave most school-age children who have applied for asylum out of school. 

Van Esveld said Greece has "less than two months to ensure that children who risked their lives to reach its coasts can go to school at the beginning of the school year, a deadline it has never respected". He also said that the European Union should encourage Greece to satisfy the right to an education of these children by eliminating its containment policy.
 

More articles

Webpack App