The inadequacy of reception conditions in Greece was brought into sharp focus with the killing of a 15-year-old child at the Moria reception centre on Lesvos. The boy was killed following the outbreak of a fight between several children, during which two others were also injured.

Refugees and migrants currently spend months in severely overcrowded conditions in the Reception and Identification Centres (RICs) of the Eastern Aegean islands. In Moria, there are currently over 8200 refugees and migrants, almost three times higher than the camp’s capacity. The situation in the camp is particularly acute for children. 600 children live in Moria alone, while the safe zone for unaccompanied children only has a capacity of 70.

Access to basic provisions and appropriate shelter, the effective functioning of a guardianship system, and alternatives to detention for children were central to the immediate measures indicated by the European Committee on Social Rights in May 2019 following the submission of a complaint by ECRE and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), with support from the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR).

However, the Greek government has failed to implement adequate safeguards for children in Greece, not only on the Eastern Aegean islands, but across the country. Over 1100 children are in RICs and detention facilities in Greece, the highest figure since early 2016. Children continue to be detained in “protective custody”, and in the Amigdaleza pre-removal centre outside of Athens, the number of unaccompanied children detained reached its highest in early August.

The death of the 15-year-old was lamented by ICJ and Greek ECRE member AITIMA, who criticized the “state of exception” approach to reception conditions in Greece. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, called on the Greek government “to take urgent measures to ensure that these children are transferred to a safe place”.

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Photo: (CC) ChadBriggs, March 2016

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.