Σε εκδήλωση που πραγματοποιήθηκε με πρωτοβουλία των Ευρωβουλευτών Στέλιου Κούλογλου και Jean Lambert με θέμα την παιδική φροντίδα και την από-ιδρυματοποίηση των παιδιών μίλησε ο Κώστας Χρυσόγονος. Έχοντας ως βασικό άξονα των σκέψεών του τα προβλήματα που αντιμετωπίζουν οι ασυνόδευτοι ανήλικοι, ο Ευρωβουλευτής αναφέρθηκε στην κατακόρυφη άνοδο του αριθμού ανήλικων που εισέρχονται στην Ευρώπη ιδιαίτερα κατά την περίοδο της προσφυγικής κρίσης και τόνισε την ανάγκη να εστιάσουμε στην ορθότερη αντιμετώπιση και μεταχείριση τους από τις αρμόδιες ευρωπαϊκές αρχές.
Ακολουθεί στα αγγλικά το κείμενο της ομιλίας :
We are gathered here today to discuss an important issue: the challenges faced by existing child care facilities in Greece. I would like to focus my speech on the sensitive issue of unaccompanied minors, which has not been given enough attention.
In the context of migration to the European Union (EU), an unaccompanied minor, as defined by Directive 2011/95/UE, refers to a minor who arrives on the territory of an EU Member State unaccompanied by an adult responsible or a minor who is left unaccompanied after he or she has entered the territory of the Member States. Unaccompanied minors are subject to multiple vulnerability factors: they are children, they are migrants and they are under no protection of an adult. So it is only upon the Member States to design specific legislative measures in order to take care of them.
One in five of over 870,000 refugees and migrants who arrived in Europe in 2015 via the Mediterranean were children. If in 2016 the arrivals of unaccompanied minors continue as they were registered during the month of January, then their number is anticipated to be more than double than in 2015, bearing heavy consequences for the child protection facilities. On January 395 unaccompanied minors were registered, whereas on January 2015 their number was 75.
One of the problems that authorities encounter is the age assessment. Age assessment in asylum procedures refers to the procedures through which authorities seek to establish the chronological age of a person to determine which immigration procedures and rules need to be followed. Many unaccompanied children do not want to disclose to the authorities that they are children, due to fear of being put in locked child protection facilities, unable to continue their journey to northern Europe. Being misidentified as an adult rather than a child may have considerable implications on the level of rights and protections owed to them by a receiving State, for example it could lead to detention as an adult.
We have to understand that, as far as the authorities are concerned, the unaccompanied minors are quasi invisible. Due to the lack of legal opportunities to enter the EU to apply for asylum, almost all children use irregular routes, facilitated by smugglers, to reach Europe. They arrive under terrible conditions in Greece; they may or may not be identified as children and can disappear as quickly as they came without anyone even noticing. Why is that? First of all, the huge number of arrivals in 2015 has created problems of identification and registration, especially in Greece which has received most of the asylum seekers arriving in European soil and seeking for protection. Second, unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable and face an increased risk of becoming victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Europol’s statement, thus, that in 2015 more than 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have disappeared after arriving in Europe shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Upon arrival in Greece, minors don't receive differentiated treatment as there's no specialised state infrastructure for receiving and dealing with these children and no staff professionally qualified to examine their claims. Children are placed in emergency shelters, designed to accommodate refugee children for just a few days. Most of the existing centres are administered by NGOs that receive certain subsidies from the State. The ongoing economic crisis has made funding a challenge for these facilities.
What has been acknowledged is the lack of systematic approach towards children that could lead to protection of their fundamental rights. It is true that legislation provides for the appointment of the Public Prosecutor as a temporary guardian. However, in practice, the operation of guardianship for minors has very rarely been effectively activated, rendering unaccompanied and separated children in further danger. In practice, Public Prosecutors delegate the responsibility for the care and protection of minors to social workers of reception centres, who may or may not respond to their duties. As the daily acts that require the consent of a guardian are numerous, the absence of an effective guardian has implications for all aspects of the protection and exercise of unaccompanied minors' lawful rights. It has to be noted that last year NGO “Metadrasis” presented the first results of the innovative program "Guardianship Network for Unaccompanied Minors'' (GNUM) that aims to offer personalized support and safeguard the rights of unaccompanied children. However, this project run by an NGO and based on private funding is not enough to secure the fundamental rights of all children arriving unaccompanied.
What is needed is first, a detailed record of unaccompanied minors arriving in Greece, second, an increase of open accommodation facilities for unaccompanied minors and the creation of accommodation facilities for unaccompanied girls and unaccompanied minors under the age of 12, third, the strengthening of the institution of guardianship so as to function effectively and fourth, address the need for a reform of the child protection sector in Greece towards family and community based care, such as family support services, foster care and small group homes.
In this regard, apart from the European Structural and Investment Funds, other funds could also be made available in the case of unaccompanied minors, such as Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). These funds are of particular importance to any country, as receiving almost 1.000.000 refugees in decent conditions in just one year is an impossible task, but especially to Greece, which faces severe financial problems on its own. The European Union’s response so far has been ineffective, to say the least. Let’s hope that the promotion of the protection of the rights of the child set as an explicit objective in Article 3(3) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and in Article 24 of the Charter on Fundamental Rights of the EU will not turn out to be a dead letter.