Human Rights Watch - “ Why Are You Keeping Me Here ? ” Unaccompanied Children Detained in Greece

Source : Human Rights Watch

Date : septembre 2016



« This report, based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch in mainland Greece from June 27 to July 6, 2016, primarily documents problems with the detention of unaccompanied children in police custody. However, because some of the children interviewed also spent time detained in Coast Guard facilities, or in facilities run by the First Reception Service, the report also addresses aspects of detention conditions at these sites. »



  • To the Government of Greece

« • End any practice of automatic detention of unaccompanied children, and make individual assessments of the needs of each child based on their best interest.

Amend legislation to shorten significantly the maximum amount of time unaccompanied children may be detained in protective custody in exceptional, emergency circumstances, and ensure that children are never detained in excess of the time permitted under law.

Stop using police stations as detention centers for children, urgently improve detention conditions in police-run facilities and ensure that children in detention have access to interpretation services, information about the purpose of their detention, counseling, legal aid, and educational and recreational materials.

While ensuring adequate conditions, prioritize efforts to create short-term alternatives to detention, including safe spaces in refugee camps, and accelerate transfers of children from police custody to such transitional spaces.

While ensuring adequate conditions, increase the number of spaces in existing long-term care facilities for unaccompanied children, create new facilities to the level required to ensure placements for all unaccompanied children in the country, and establish a national, government-run foster family system.

Ensure that all unaccompanied children are immediately appointed a guardian who has the capacity and expertise necessary to secure representation of the child’s best interest, including addressing concerns related to conditions, treatment, and length of detention in police custody.

Ensure guidelines and training prepare law enforcement officers to screen children to correctly identify those with particular vulnerabilities, such as trafficking victims, and to refer them to specialized services and accommodation.

Ensure police practices comply with the Greek Presidential Decree limiting the use of handcuffs on minors and ensure that unaccompanied children are never placed in handcuffs unless absolutely necessary, for the shortest possible period of time, and never as a punishment.

Urgently register and process applications from unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Greece who are eligible for family reunification in other European Union member states under the Dublin Regulation, and from unaccompanied children who are eligible for relocation under the EU emergency relocation plan, while ensuring their best interests are taken into account. »

  • To the European Commission

« • Urgently allocate additional emergency funding to Greece and to nongovernmental organizations that is specifically designated to increase long-term care placements for unaccompanied children.

Urgently support family reunification of unaccompanied children from Greece to member states under the Dublin Regulation, including through technical and financial support to Greece.

Amend the emergency relocation plan to ensure that all asylum-seeking unaccompanied children are eligible for relocation to other EU countries, regardless of nationality, and that the best interests of children are taken into account in relocation decisions. »

  • To European Union Member States

« • Urgently facilitate family reunification of unaccompanied children from Greece under the Dublin Regulation.

Urgently make designated, sufficient places available for unaccompanied children as part of formal pledges, taking into account the best interests of children, and accelerate the fulfillment of obligations under the EU emergency relocation scheme.

Support a revision of the EU emergency relocation plan to ensure that all asylumseeking unaccompanied children are eligible for relocation to other EU countries, regardless of their nationality, and that the best interests of children are taken into account in relocation decisions. »

  • To EU, Council of Europe, and UN Human Rights Bodies and Experts

« • Assess and report on Greece’s reception of unaccompanied children, including through visits to facilities where children are detained, with due attention to arbitrary
prolonged detention of children in degrading conditions, as well as the progress of longstanding efforts to provide alternatives to detention and suitable, sufficient accommodation. Call for the complete end of the detention of migrant children.


« We conducted interviews in two police stations, the Mygdonia Border Guard Station in Thessaloniki and the Filiates Police Station in Igoumenitsa, in two pre-removal detention centers, Amygdaleza in the Attica region and Paranesti in Drama, at a safe space for children at the Diavata refugee camp in Thessaloniki, and at an NGO-run shelter for unaccompanied children in the Attica region. All interviews were conducted individually and in private. »

I. Background

« The detention of unaccompanied children due to a shortage of shelter space is a long standing problem in Greece, but it has grown particularly acute in the context of Europe’s ongoing migrant and refugee crisis. In 2015, an unprecedented number of asylum seekers and migrants traveled by sea to Greece, many of whom continued their journey overland through Western Balkans countries that, at the time, largely allowed asylum seekers and migrants to transit freely towards other EU countries. In late 2015/early 2016, borders to the north of Greece closed, effectively trapping asylum seekers and migrants in Greece and further reducing the availability of places in shelters for unaccompanied children. In the first seven months of 2016, over 160,500 people reached Greek shores and Greek authorities registered over 3,300 unaccompanied asylum-seeking and migrant children.  »

II. Arbitrary and Prolonged Detention

« According to the Hellenic Police, 161 unaccompanied children had been detained in protective custody by police while awaiting transfer to a shelter in the first six months of 2016. »

III. Unsanitary and Degrading Conditions, Abusive Treatment

« Under European and international standards, in the exceptional cases that an unaccompanied child is detained for his or her protection, conditions should be governed by the best interest of the child. In reality conditions for unaccompanied children in Greek detention are far from being in their best interests. »

  • Ill-treatment

« Most of the children interviewed by Human Right Watch did not report abuse, and offered a neutral or positive assessment of the behavior of police officers. However, four children said they were subjected to abuse by police officers. »

  • Detention with Adults

«  Human Rights Watch found that some unaccompanied children are detained in Greece with adults, despite prohibitions in Greek and international law . Nine children whose status as children was undisputed told Human Rights Watch they had been detained with adults, either at police stations, Coast Guard facilities, or on the islands. In response to our queries, the Hellenic Police insisted in a letter that unaccompanied children are never detained with adults. »

IV. Lack of Care, Protection, and Services

« There are serious gaps in the care, protection and services that the Greek authorities offer to unaccompanied children in detention. Children are often unable to receive critical care, counseling, information, and legal aid, and have little to no access to educational or recreational activities. »



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