Children in the Moria camp in Greece | Credit: Sarah Sammya Anfis
Children in the Moria camp in Greece | Credit: Sarah Sammya Anfis

A European court on Thursday condemned France and Greece for their treatment of child migrants and refugees in two separate cases dating to early 2016. The court ruled that European authorities had breached Europe's human rights convention forbidding inhuman or degrading treatment.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Thursday that France pay €15,000 ($17,000) to an Afghan migrant who lived alone in the makeshift migrant camp in Calais.

The decision affected the then 12-year-old Jamil Khan, who was one of several unaccompanied minors in the camp. Khan left his home country in August 2015 and lived at the camp until he snuck across the English Channel in March 2016. He now lives in England.

The ECHR was not convinced that France did everything it could to protect Khan. The court determined French authorities breached Europe's human rights convention on inhumane and degrading treatment.

"Owing to the failure of the authorities to protect the applicant...he spent six months living in an environment manifestly unsuitable for children, characterized by insalubrity, precariousness and insecurity," the ECHR ruled.

What remained of the camp was demolished in October 2016. Migrants and refugees attempting to enter the United Kingdom still gather in French port towns along the English Channel.

The number of migrants officially recognized as underage in France tripled between 2015 and last year, to more than 17,000 people, the French Interior Ministry said in a statement Thursday. But it said a much larger number of adult migrants claim to be children in order to seek special state aid and shelter from local governments, AP reports. France has introduced a new database on young migrants who claim to be children to prevent fraud, a move that is criticized by UNICEF and other rights groups.

Trouble in Greece

The ECHR on Thursday also ordered Greece to pay young migrants and refugees for improper treatment. The nine migrants and refugees, between 14 and 17 at the time of the incident in 2016, are set to receive €4,000 each.

The migrants and refugees were held in cells in police and border guard stations. The then teenagers were held there between 21 and 33 days before they were transferred to a reception center.

The ECHR said the conditions in the cells were unsustainable for lengthy detention and included degrading treatment and unlawful detention. The ECHR added that a European committee against torture said detaining unaccompanied minors for "several days or even weeks, without any psychological or social assistance" was unacceptable, dpa reports.

The nine migrants and refugees involved in the trial were from various countries. Six of them were from Syria, two from Iraq and one from Morocco. Their complaints about overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in the Diavata reception center where they were eventually transferred were rejected. The ECHR said the center was a safe place for underage migrants, adding they were free to come and go and noted that it was urgently set up in response to an "unprecedented migratory and humanitarian crisis in Greece."

Tens of thousands of migrants and refugees, primarily from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were arriving every month in Greece in 2016. However, an agreement between the European Union and Turkey eventually put an end to much of the arrivals. 


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