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HRW report on Greece: systematic failure to protect unaccompanied migrant children

Human Rights Watch publicou hoxe un informe con máis de cen páxinas sobre Grecia, centrado na desprotección dos menores migrantes. O informe leva por título “Left to Survive: Systematic Failure to Protect Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Greece”. Copio un extracto da súa introducción:

By the end of the year, an estimated total of 1,000 unaccompanied migrant and asylum-seeking children will have entered Greece during 2008. Arriving without a parent or adult responsible for their care, many have fled countries wracked by armed conflict such as Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq. Some are fleeing persecution, violence, discrimination and exploitation. Others are running from a destiny of poverty and illiteracy. An unknown number may have been trafficked.

Many will have been caught by the authorities as they enter the country, sometimes by boat, others as they try to leave for other parts of the European Union. Yet others will have been detained by police making sweeps against migrants, such as that which took place in Patras at the start of 2008, or in action against street traders or petty criminality. A few will declare themselves through the process of applying for asylum.

These unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse. Yet the official protection and asylum regimes fail them-migrants and asylum-seekers alike. That systemic failure is the focus of this report.

While Greek legislation recognizes, to an extent, the government’s obligations to care for and protect unaccompanied migrant children, the situation on the ground is woeful. The police are responsible for virtually all aspects of immigration and asylum-including the adjudication of asylum claims in the first instance and the deportation of migrants. Yet children (and adult migrants) report being beaten, kicked or slapped by police officers and coast guards. One child told Human Rights Watch of being subjected to a mock execution by a port police officer in Patras. Others reported being thrown into the sea.

Children are routinely detained, contrary to international standards, sometimes in the same cells as adults. Procedures for assessing their age or vulnerability are totally inadequate. Children report arbitrary age assessments.

The inadequacy of identification procedures followed by police combined with the lack of trained personnel and interpreters mean that there is a serious risk that trafficked children are not recognized as such. One official declared that his detention center did not have any trafficking victims within it-but there were no interpreters employed at the center and one of the detainees, an Afghan girl, told Human Rights Watch researchers that she had not been interviewed since her arrival. One boy described how he would be kept “like a prisoner” by the man who smuggled him if his uncle back home did not pay the agreed US$6000 smuggling fee. A 16-year-old girl from the Philippines told how she had come to Athens to join “her aunt,” taking up a job as a domestic worker.

The guardianship system, the responsibility of juvenile and court prosecutors, is dysfunctional. There are no standard procedures explaining the mandate of guardians for foreign unaccompanied children, and as a result prosecutors have widely differing views of what their role entails. Some believe that they cannot act on behalf of detained children.

Only a small minority of unaccompanied children ask for asylum no matter how solid their refugee claims. Many believe they have no chances of receiving refugee status. Indeed, Greece’s recognition rate of asylum-seekers after a first assessment stands at 0.03 percent.

Unaccompanied children who want to apply for asylum in Greece face serious obstacles simply accessing asylum procedures. None of the children interviewed by Human Rights Watch, many of whom are illiterate, had been orally informed by police of their right to claim asylum. Although the authorities say that applications from children can be received any day of the week, in reality, unaccompanied children are lined up with hundreds of adults outside the Petrou Ralli police station in Athens each Sunday-the main facility for processing asylum claims. Children described waiting in line overnight and returning six or seven times before finally managing to enter the building. Some told us they gave up trying to file an asylum application. During the asylum interview, few are represented by a guardian or lawyer. Unaccompanied children told of interviews lasting only a few minutes in which key information about their situation was not recorded and some were denied the chance to explain why they left their country of origin or their families. […]

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22 Decembro 2008 - Posted by | Greece, Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Politics

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