Refugees waiting to be registered in the Asylum Service in the Identification Center of Moria, Lesbos island, Greece | Photo: ARCHIVE/PANAGIOTIS BALASKAS
Refugees waiting to be registered in the Asylum Service in the Identification Center of Moria, Lesbos island, Greece | Photo: ARCHIVE/PANAGIOTIS BALASKAS

The UN Migration Agency IOM wants Greece to set up more shelters for unaccompanied minor migrants as winter approaches. IOM staff teams have been deployed to eight facilities temporarily set up in hotels.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has called on Greece to set up more shelters and reception facilities for unaccompanied minor migrants and refugees as winter sets in across the country. The Greek government recently received criticism from human rights groups and NGOs after the Greek NGO Association for the Social Support of Youth (ARSIS) said underage migrants were being housed in Greek police cells due to a lack of space in migrant camps in Northern Greece. 

Living conditions grim for minors 

Greek authorities have stepped up their efforts to support vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied underage migrants but living conditions for thousands of the minors remains grim due to overcrowding at all of the camps.

An EU-funded project is currently providing shelter for over 1,000 children in 13 hotels that are operating as temporary accommodation in northern and central Greece. A multidisciplinary team of 24 IOM staff is assigned to eight of these facilities, while five IOM employees are working at each of the other five facilities - three of which are run by ARSIS, while the two others are supervised by another partner, Iliaktida. 

"Shelters are being set up in Greece, but adequate numbers are still lacking. With this project there is a possibility to ensure that proper accommodation is provided for these children," said Gianluca Rocco, IOM Chief of Mission in Greece.

Easing the burden 

In November, over 600 asylum seekers were moved to the mainland from refugee camps on Samos, Lesbos, Chios, and Kos as part of the Greek Migration Policy Ministry's ongoing efforts to try to ease the burden on the overcrowded island facilities. Official figures show that thus far this year, more than 16,000 refugees and migrants considered "vulnerable" - including unaccompanied minors, single-parent families, the disabled and people with mental health problems - have been included in the transfers. Through 31 October, most of the children came from Afghanistan (453), Pakistan (395), Syria (104), Iraq (36) and Morocco (20).

IOM said it was taking urgent action to ensure the children are receiving psychosocial support, mental health counselling, legal counselling and support accompanied by interpretation. IOM staff are also responsible for the distribution of clothing and hygiene kits, the provision of pocket money, and monthly public transport cards. 

Health and education are key 

IOM and the Greek Ministry of Education are ensuring children enroll in the public education system. Since September 2018, 220 of the unaccompanied migrant children accommodated in the hotels have been enrolled in Greek schools - 96 in Northern Greece and 124 in Southern Greece. Meanwhile, Médecins du Monde-Greece (MdM-Greece), in close partnership with IOM, carried out 13,900 medical interventions between 1 January and 31 October. MdM staff conducted 587 vaccinations, 1,568 referrals, 4,443 prescriptions and 7,302 consultations. "MdM is working at maximum capacity to assess the health needs of the unaccompanied migrant children who have been trapped in a continuously temporary and uncertain situation in our country," said Joanna Nikolaidou, MdM's Assistant Field Coordinator in Greece. 

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