Governments commit to relocating children, but pressure must be maintained for commitments to become action.
Almost 100 organisations are now part of the campaign to relocate all unaccompanied refugee children from the dangerous camps on the Greek Islands. By putting pressure on governments, campaigners can confirm that 11 European countries have now agreed to bring children from the islands:
These countries have expressed willingness to relocate and accommodate unaccompanied refugee children, with the following actions taken to date:
- Luxembourg and Germany were the first member states to start the relocation process in practice.
- On April 15th 2020, 12 children (1 girl and 11 boys from Syria and Afghanistan) between the ages of 11-15 were relocated from Samos, Lesvos and Chios to Luxembourg.
- On April 19th 2020, 47 children (43 boys and 4 girls from Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea) were relocated from Samos, Lesvos and Chios to Hanover, Germany. They will spend 14 days in quarantine in a facility managed by child protection services in the county Osnabrueck, after which they will be transferred to various municipalities throughout Germany.
- Germany also announced that it is willing to relocate up to 350-500 children in total.
- According to media reports, 20 children are to be flown from Greece to Switzerland in the coming days.
At present, however, pressure needs to be maintained on all governments across the European Union, as it is not yet clear if the commitments mean all unaccompanied children will be able to leave the refugee camps. Some governments have used COVID-19 as an excuse not to relocate, or to delay the process, which is unacceptable given the current risks faced by the children if they remain living in unsanitary, unprotected conditions. COVID-19 makes the need to relocate more urgent than ever.
We're also concerned that there has been a lack of involvement from child protection NGOs and experts, and the potential for governments to put in place overly restrictive ‘selection criteria’ about which children they bring. UNICEF, UNHCR and IOM have issued guidance on standards for which children can be identified and prioritised for relocation under the current scheme, and 100 Million believes that every unaccompanied child refugee must have the right to safety and protection.
Finally, Human Rights Watch has launched a new campaign which demands that any unaccompanied children currently being held in police cells and detention centres across Greece, including the mainland, must be freed. #FreeTheKids calls on Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to free hundreds of unaccompanied children from abusive detention conditions to better protect them from infection amid the coronavirus pandemic.
You can keep up the pressure on governments, even if you are on lockdown due to the pandemic.