Asylum seeking children are facing harrowing conditions in Greek detention centres, a new report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) documents. Children are enduring inadequate sanitation and hygiene conditions, ill-treatment by police offices, and little or no access to counseling, information and legal aid.

“Greece says it has to detain children for their own protection, but being locked up in cramped and filthy cells is the last thing these kids need,” said HRW Rebecca Riddell. “We’re talking about kids who are all alone and who fled their countries, often to escape violence. Greece and the EU should do a better job giving these vulnerable children the care they need and deserve.”

The report is based on interviews carried out in late June and early July 2016 with over 40 children. “It is hard when I think about how many days I’ve been inside. There’s nothing to do,” says 16-year-ol Wasim, interviewed by HRW at a police station in Filiates. “The only thing we do is think, talk to each other, and sleep. There’s no TV, no books, and the wall is black from the dirt…. [T]he water is too cold and we can’t shower.”

HRW stresses that detention of unaccompanied children can only be used as a measure of last resort and in very exceptional circumstances and calls on the Greek government to ensure appropriate alternatives to detention in accordance with international, European and national law. The European Commission is also called upon to provide emergency funding for the development of adequate reception accommodation. In addition, EU Member States should enable unaccompanied asylum seeking children to relocate through the EU relocation plan and family reunification efforts.

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