Some of the renovated spaces where the unaccompanied refugee children will stay in Greece | SOURCE: IOM Greece
Some of the renovated spaces where the unaccompanied refugee children will stay in Greece | SOURCE: IOM Greece

IOM and the Church of Greece are working together on a project to provide safer, long-term accommodation for unaccompanied refugee children in Greece. Continued overcrowding and COVID-19 restrictions continue to weigh heavily on problems in camps.

The Greek branch of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has begun working with a Church of Greece charity to help improve accommodation facilities for unaccompanied migrant children in the country. 

Using funds from the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), the initiative aims to safeguard the wellbeing of unaccompanied refugee and migrant children and ensure the provision of a safe environment as foreseen by Greek and EU laws. 

Furniture, equipment and separate toilet 

"The CEB-funded project supports the refurbishment and small-scale repairs in three facilities to be used as shelter for migrant minors, two of which are located at the center of Athens and one in the region of greater Attica," said IOM in a press release. 

The statement added: "The project will provide furniture such as beds, desks, dining tables, the equipment of a recreational activities' room and the supply of necessary kitchen and cleaning appliances. Special care has been taken for vulnerable cases through the installation of a stairlift elevator mechanism as well as a separate accessible toilet." 

To address need for long-term accommodation 

Increasing the number of long-term accommodation places for unaccompanied minors in Greece is implemented with the funding of MRF grant received from the CEB. It facilitates the establishment of long-term accommodation shelters for unaccompanied children, who live in reception and identification centers, protective custody and hotels and are in need of a safe and secure long-term accommodation solution. 

The "Integration Center for Migrant Workers - Ecumenical Refugee Programme" (KSTM - ERP) of the Church of Greece Non-Profit Organization, operates the day-to-day activities at the shelter also deploying on 24/7 basis a specialized multi-sectoral team covering the needs of the children. Each shelter can host up to 40 children. 

Overcrowding and COVID-19 aggravating problems 

By Greek law, unaccompanied children should be transferred to safe accommodation, but the country faces a chronic shortage of space in suitable facilities due to the sheer volume of people. According to the latest government data, since April 30, only 1,477 out of the 5,099 unaccompanied children in Greece were housed in suitable, long-term facilities. The rest are left to fend for themselves in overcrowded island camps in the North East Aegean, or on the streets or are confined in police cells and detention centers on Greece's mainland. 

Overcrowding is still a huge problem as Greece continues to struggle with the weight of the ongoing migrant crisis, coupled with the complications brought about with restrictions of movement due to Covid-19 as well as periodic lockdowns in several camps. 

The human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW), along with several other NGOs, recently accused the Greek authorities of simply not doing enough to address the dangerous overcrowding and lack of health care, access to basic human needs such as adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene products to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in camps.

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