In the last few days, I’ve had meetings with more than 10 organizations (Save the Children, Safe Passage, Metadrasi, ARSIS, Praxis, Hellas Caritas, City Plaza Hotel (gekraakte vluchtelingenopvang), Solidarity Now, the HOME project, Be Aware And Share School, Mobile Info Team).
During these meetings, we discussed amongst others the current situation of unaccompanied minors in Greece, the EU-Turkey deal and the flaws of the Greek (and EU) system. Yet, even more importantly, we discussed how we can work together to implement the solution: the Kids Reunited app based on blockchain technology which will bring order in the current chaos.
I definitely have more knowledge on the situation now, but if I understand it? Not at all. Unaccompanied minors are sent straight to detention centra as soon as they arrive on the islands. From there they get help from several non-governmental organizations to move them to shelters, however, they sometimes disappear and are found back at the adult detention centers where they are treated like animals.
Some people I spoke to blamed the Greek government from purposely delaying family reunification processes, as this creates more job opportunities for their citizens, and they receive more financial help from the EU. At the same time, I have been told that EU countries are also purposely slowing down reunifications, as they are not willing to take in extra refugees and are happy to have the problem elsewhere (in Greece, not their own country). Also, they believe that the more difficult the journey is for refugees now, the less people will start the journey in future.
I’ve also been told that the unaccompanied minors in the camps sleep in shifts, as someone always needs to be on the look out for potential dangerous situations. This means they always live in a state of fear (camps are not safe). Apparently, one of the main camps on Chios is located in a valley just next to a huge wall, and there have been several fascist attacks where people threw huge rocks and molotov cocktails onto the tents (with the intention to kill). After one of these attacks, none of the fascists, but 60 refugees and even two volunteers got arrested and brought to the detention centers. The volunteers were released after 2 horrible weeks, what happened to the refugees I don’t know. The Greek government has forced all organisations on the ground to keep silent about these events, as international media should not pick up on it.
I cannot believe that governments are ruining the lives of thousands of refugees, on purpose, just because they have other interests at stake, that they believe are more important than those lives of refugees.
After hearing these and many more stories, I believe it is essential that unaccompanied minors leave these terrible places as soon as possible in order to minimize their traumas and promote their mental health.
Luckily, most of the organizations I spoke to were very enthusiastic about the Kids Reunited system, and emphasized the need of such structure and standardization in today’s chaos. Some organizations work with lawyers and guardians for the unaccompanied minors, and they would like to try out the KR system. If it works, this would mean that a large part of the reunification requests will go through the KR system and that Dublin Units (the part of the asylum services that deal with reunification requests) will be able to deal with requests more systematically/easily. Then, international law will finally be enforced and kids will be able to leave the camps and be reunited with their families in other EU countries.
Now, I just arrived on Lesvos island, one of the islands where most refugees arrive after a dangerous crossing on inflatable boats from Turkey. In the coming days I will meet with more organizations on the ground here, and hopefully more partnerships can be formed.