Special reception needs of vulnerable groups

Greece

Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 30/05/22

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Greek Council for Refugees Visit Website

The law provides that, when applying the provisions on reception conditions, the competent authorities shall take into account the specific situation of vulnerable persons such as minors, unaccompanied or not, direct relatives of victims of shipwrecks (parents and siblings), disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with minor children, persons with serious illnesses, persons with cognitive or mental disability and persons who have been subjected to torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, victims of female genital mutilation and victims of human trafficking.[1] The assessment of the vulnerability of persons entering irregularly into the territory takes place within the framework of the Reception and Identification Procedure and, since the entry into force of the IPA, on 1 January 2020, it is no longer connected to the assessment of the asylum application.[2]

Under the reception and identification procedure, upon arrival, the Head of the RIC “shall refer persons belonging to vulnerable groups to the competent social support and protection institution.”[3]

However, shortages in the Identification of vulnerabilities, together with a critical lack of suitable reception places for vulnerable applicants on the islands (see Types of Accommodation) prevents vulnerable persons from enjoying special reception conditions. A report published by MSF highlights alarming levels of mental health problems among asylum applicants on the Greek islands, including self-harming and suicidal acts among children. According to MSF, the indefinite detention, sense of limbo and systematic violence further traumatised people seeking protection. The Estia scheme on Samos, which had offered safe apartments to vulnerable applicants in the past, including victims of sexual and gender-based violence, was discontinued. Due to a lack of alternative accommodation, even sexually abused persons stayed in tents in a separate section of Vathy camp, where the alleged perpetrators also stayed. On Lesvos, following the closure of the Kara Tepe site, a model facility offering dignified accommodation in prefabricated containers, vulnerable persons were transferred to Mavrovouni tent camp. Owing to the reduced numbers of alternatives to camps on both islands, there are significant difficulties in finding dignified accommodation even for persons with serious health issues, as reported by MSF.[4]

 

Reception of unaccompanied children

Following the establishment of the Special Secretary for Unaccompanied Minors (SSUM) under the MoMA in February 2020,[5] and the entry into force of L. 4756/2020 in November of the same year, the SSUM has become the competent authority for the protection of UAM, including the accommodation of UAM, while EKKA, under the supervision of the Directorate for the Protection of Children and Families of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs remains responsible for the representation of UAM, including through the guardianship provided under L. 4554/2018.[6] As far as GCR is aware, the handover of activities (e.g. referrals) in the context of accommodation for UAM had been fully handed over to the office of the Special Secretary by the end of 2020.

Ongoing progress regarding the reception capacity for unaccompanied children

As of 31 December 2021, there were at least 2,225 unaccompanied and separated children in Greece and a total of 2,478 dedicated accommodation places in shelters and the Semi-Independent Living (SILs) facilities, highlighting a positive change, compared to previous years.[7]  In a further welcome development, in April 2021 Greece launched a National Emergency Response Mechanism aimed at tracing UAM in precarious conditions and providing them with access to necessary protection. The National Mechanism is operated by the SSUM, in collaboration with UNHCR (expert support) and NGOs Arsis, METAdrasi and the Network for Children’s Rights (operational/field support). The Mechanism also includes a 24/7 telephone hotline for identifying and tracing children in need, which is available in six languages. The hotline provides guidance to children, citizens, local and public authorities on steps and actions to be taken from the point of identification of an unaccompanied child until his/her timely inclusion in emergency accommodation.[8] Between April and December 2021, the hotline received 1,586 unique calls for accommodation for UAM in precarious conditions.[9] Though data on the number of UAM estimated to be living in insecure and/or precarious conditions have stopped being issued, this may provide an indication of the ongoing level of needs.

The total number of referrals of unaccompanied children received by SSUM in 2021 was 4,748, marking a 21% decrease when compared to the same period in 2020 (6,006). At the same time, the number of long-term accommodation spaces, specifically designated for unaccompanied minors, continued to increase, reaching a total of 2,478 places by year’s end, as opposed to 1,715 by the end of 2020 (approx. 44% increase) [10]. Of the 4,748 UAM that were referred to accommodation, 4,435 were boys, the majority of whom were above the age of 12 (98%), and 313 were girls, most of whom (85%) were older than 12 years old.[11]

The average waiting period for the placement of unaccompanied minors residing in and/or outside of island RICs to suitable accommodation places for UAMs was 7.4 days in December 2021. The relevant period for UAM in “protective custody” or in the RIC of Fylakio, Evros, was 4.7 days. The average time for the placement of UAM in a shelter was 4.1 days in December 2021.[12]  In all cases, this amounts to further and highly welcome development with regards to the time it takes for identified UAM to access dedicated accommodation places.

Q 2021 No. of referrals for accommodation No. of referrals that were addressed*
Q1 955 1,147
Q2 1,147 1,537
Q3 1,279 1,663
Q4 1,367 1,236
Total 4,748 5,583

Source: Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors. Data received on 11 March 2022. *The divergence between the number of referrals and those addressed regards placements that were made in 2021, based on referrals made during the previous year. 

 

Nevertheless, challenges regarding the proper identification of UAM upon arrival, and as a consequence cases where UAM have been accommodated alongside the adult population have continued to be observed in 2021, at least on the islands.[13] Furthermore, despite significant improvements following the abolition of “protective custody” by law in 2020, GCR continued to identify UAM in detention up to December 2021, primarily in Athens,[14] albeit this seems to be the exception.

The lack of appropriate care, including accommodation for unaccompanied children, in Greece has been repeatedly raised by human rights bodies.[15] Among others in 2019, in the context of his visit to the Lesvos, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees stated he was “very worried about children, especially children travelling alone…[who] are the most exposed to violence and exploitation”,[16] while Human Rights Watch inter alia noted that “the lack of prompt transfers [from the islands] put vulnerable people, including people with invisible disabilities and children, at higher risk of abuse and violation of their rights”.[17]

In November 2018, ECRE and ICJ, with the support of GCR lodged a collective complaint before the European Committee for Social Rights of the Council of Europe with regards the situation of inter alia unaccompanied children in Greece.[18] In response to the complaint, In May 2019, the Committee on Social Rights exceptionally decided to indicate immediate measures to Greece to protect the rights of migrant children and to prevent serious and irreparable injury or harm to the children concerned, including damage to their physical and mental health, and to their safety, by inter alia removing them from detention and from Reception and Identification Centres (RICs) at the borders.[19]

Furthermore, in December 2019, in a case represented by GCR, in cooperation with ASGI, Still I Rise and Doctors Without Borders, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, granted interim measures to five unaccompanied teenagers, asylum seekers, who had been living for many months in the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) and in the “jungle” of Samos. The interim measures indicated to the Greek authorities their timely transfer to a centre for unaccompanied minors and to ensure that their reception conditions are compatible with Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment) and the applicants’ particular status.[20]

In March 2020, a number of EU Member States accepted to relocate about 1,600 unaccompanied children from Greece.[21] Despite the fact that the number of children to be relocated remains significantly low, compared to the number of unaccompanied children present in Greece (3,776 children as of 15 April 2021[22]), this is a welcome initiative and tangible display of responsibility sharing that facilitates UAM’s access to durable solutions.

The first relocation under the scheme took place on 15 April 2020, with the first 12 UAM being relocated from Greece to Luxemburg, after previously having stayed for months in the overcrowded, unsuitable and unsafe RICs of Lesvos, Samos, and Chios. As noted by the Regional Director of IOM at the time “[t]he importance of this crucial initiative is amplified now due to the challenges we are all facing from COVID-19. Relocation of vulnerable children especially at a time of heightened hardship, sends a strong message of European solidarity and we hope to see this expand soon”[23].

By December 2021, a total of 1,093 UAM, amongst whom 93% boys and 7% girls, had been relocated to other EU member states, most of them to Germany and France, followed by Portugal and Finland. The relocation scheme has been extended until March 2022, in an attempt to meet the total number of pledges made by Member States.[24

Types of accommodation for unaccompanied children

Out of the total number of available places for unaccompanied children in Greece at the end of 2021 (i) 1,990 were in 71 shelters for unaccompanied children; and (ii) 488 places were in 121 Supported Independent Living apartments for unaccompanied children over the age of 16.[25] Moreover, in December 2021 18 UAM were accommodated in facilities dedicated to relocation, 60 in emergency accommodation facilities, 131 in Reception and Identification Centers and 61 in Open Reception Centers.[26]

Shelters for unaccompanied children: long-term and short-term accommodation facilities for unaccompanied children (shelters) are managed primarily by civil society entities and charities as well as by and with the support of IOM.

Shelters as of December 2021
Organisation Shelter Region Municipality
APOSTOLI ESTIA Attica Agios Dimitrios
ARSIS ELLI Eastern Macedonia & Thrace Evros
ARSIS FRIXOS Eastern Macedonia & Thrace Evros
ARSIS MAKRINITSA Thessaly Volos
ARSIS METAKSOURGEIO Attica Athens
ARSIS ORAIOKASTRO Central Macedonia Oreokastro
ARSIS PYLAIA Central Macedonia Pylaia-Chortiatis
ARSIS TAGARADES Central Macedonia Thermi
ARSIS TO SPITI TIS ARSIS Central Macedonia Oreokastro
DIMOS VOIOU PENTALOFOS Western Macedonia Voios
EKFRASI INOI Attica Athens
EKFRASI SPORADON Attica Athens
FAROS ATHENS Attica Athens
FAROS ELPIDAS PETRALONA Attica Athens
HAMOGELO KABALA Eastern Macedonia & Thrace Kavala
HELLENIC RED CROSS Alkibiadou A Attica Athens
HELLENIC RED CROSS Alkibiadou B Attica Athens
HELLENIC RED CROSS Alkibiadou C Attica Athens
HELLENIC RED CROSS Kalavryta Western Greece Kalavryta
HELLENIC RED CROSS Volos Thessaly Volos
ICSD Ioannina Epirus Ioannina
ICSD IGOUMENITSA Epirus IGOUMENITSA
ICSD FRONTIZO Epirus Ioannina
ICSD IOANNINA Epirus Ioannina
ILIAKTIDA ERESOS Northern Aegean Lesvos
ILIAKTIDA LIMANAKI Northern Aegean Lesvos
ILIAKTIDA ALYSIDA Northern Aegean Lesvos
ILIAKTIDA VOSTANI Northern Aegean Lesvos
ILIAKTIDA SKRA Northern Aegean Lesvos
ILIAKTIDA SOURADA Northern Aegean Lesvos
ILIAKTIDA KALLITHEA Attica Kallithea
IOM CHALANDRI Attica Chalandri
IOM  ILION Attica Ilion
IOM KYPSELI I Attica Athens
IOM  KYPSELI II Attica Athens
IOM PATRA Western Greece Patra
IOM THESSALONIKI Central Macedonia Thessaloniki
KEAN KARITSA Thessaly Agia
Koinoniko EKAB PEIRAIAS Attica Peiraias
Koinoniko EKAB PENTELI Attica Penteli
Koinoniko EKAB KOZANI Western Macedonia Kozani
Koinoniko EKAB LARISA Thessaly Larisa
Koinoniko EKAB A.G. PANTELEIMON Attica Athens
Koinoniko EKAB K. PATISIA Attica Athens
MEDIN ANATOLI Attica Athens
MEDIN IRIDA Attica Athens
MEDIN NEA ESTIA Attica Athens
METADRASI ATHENS Attica Glyfada
METADRASI CHIOS Northern Aegean Chios
METADRASI SAMOS Northern Aegean Samos
NOSTOS TEEN SPIRIT I Attica Peiraias
NOSTOS TEEN SPIRIT II TEEN SPIRIT II Attica Vyronas
SMAN ATHENS STATHMOS EFIVON Attica Athens
SMAN ATHENS HOUSE 2 Attica Nea Ionia
SYNYPARXIS ASPROPYRGOS Attica Aspropyrgos
SYNYPARXIS DERIGNY Attica Athens
SYNYPARXIS NIKAIA Attica Nikaia
SYNYPARXIS OREOKASTRO Central Macedonia Oreokastro
SYNYPARXIS THIRAS Attica Athens
THE HOME PROJECT DAPHNE Attica Athens
THE HOME PROJECT LITTLE PUGAD Attica Athens
THE HOME PROJECT NISOS Attica Athens
THE HOME PROJECT ORION Attica Athens
THE HOME PROJECT PUGAD Attica Athens
THE HOME PROJECT SHAPIRO FAMILY Attica Athens
THE HOME PROJECT SOCRATES Attica Athens
THE HOME PROJECT THISEAS Attica Athens
THE HOME PROJECT YUWA Attica Athens
YCE AGIOS ATHANASIOS Epirus Zagori
ZEUXIS FOIBOS Attica Peiraias
ZEUXIS OIKOS Attica Athens

Source: Information provided by Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum on 11 March 2022.

 

Supported Independent Living: “Supported Independent Living for unaccompanied minors” is an alternative housing arrangement for unaccompanied children aged 16 to 18 launched in 2018. The programme includes housing and a series of services (education, health etc.) and aims to enable the smooth coming of age and integration to Greek society.[27]

SILs as of December 2021
Organisation Region Municipality
ARSIS – DIAPLOUS Eastern Macedonia Drama
ARSIS – DIAPLOUS Eastern Macedonia Kavala
ARSIS – DIAPLOUS Central Macedonia Thessaloniki
ARSIS – DIAPLOUS Epirus Ioannina
ARSIS – PYLI Central Macedonia Thessaloniki
ARSIS – PYLI Central Macedonia Ampelokipi-Menemeni
ARSIS – PYLI Central Macedonia Neapoli-Sykies
ARSIS – PYLI Epirus Ioannina
ARSIS – PYLI Western Macedonia Kozani
EKFRASI Attica Athens
ICSD Attica Athens
ILIAKTIDA Northern Aegean Mytilene
IRC Attica Athens
KEAN Attica Athens
KOINONIKO EKAB Attica Athens
METAdrasi Attica Athens
METAdrasi Attica Chaidari
METAdrasi Attica Peristeri
METAdrasi Attica Agioi Anargyroi – Kamatero
METAdrasi Central Macedonia Thessaloniki
METAdrasi Peloponnese Kalamata
NOSTOS Attica Athens
NOSTOS Attica Galatsi
NOSTOS Attica Egaleo
PRAKSIS Attica Athens
PRAKSIS Attica Galatsi
SolidarityNow Attica Athens
SolidarityNow Central Macedonia Thessaloniki
SolidarityNow Attica Galatsi

Source: Information provided by Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum on 11 March 2022.

 

 

 

[1] Article 58(1) IPA.

[2] Article 58(2) IPA, citing Article 39 IPA.

[3] Article 39(4)(d) IPA.

[4] MSF, Constructing Crisis at Europe’s Borders: The EU plan to intensify its dangerous hotspot approach on Greek islands, June 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3tVzwFg; FRA, Migration: Key fundamental rights concerns – Bulletin 2 – 2021, September 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3LopAcY.

[5] Article 1(3) P.D.18/2020, Gov. Gazette 34/Α/19-2-2020.

[6] Articles 13 & 14 L.4756/2020.

[7] EKKA, Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children (UAC) in Greece, 31 December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3NtWye7.

[8] UNHCR, “Greece launches national tracing and protection mechanism for unaccompanied children in precarious conditions”, 6 April 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3uBRICI.

[9] EKKA, Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children (UAC) in Greece, 31 December 2021,

available at: https://bit.ly/3NtWye7.

[10] AIDA, Country Report for Greece: 2020 Update. 

[11] Information provided by Special Secretariat for Reception of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum on 11 March 2022.

[12] Ibid.

[13] GCR & Oxfam, Lesbos Bulletin: Update on the EU response in Lesbos, by the Greek Council for Refugees & Oxfam, June 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3NrSBGD.

[14] GCR & SCI, Greece: Children on the move (September – October 2021 update), available at: https://bit.ly/3NrVcjL and Children on the move (November-December 2021 update), available at: https://bit.ly/3IK6mx0.

[15] For instance, see UNHCR, ‘Lone children face insecurity on the Greek islands’, 14 October 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/36XQ6pf.

[16] Euronews, ‘U.N. refugees chief urges Greece to improve ‘miserable’ camp conditions’, 27 November 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2vWsjt3

[17] HRW, ‘Human Rights Watch Submission to the United Nations Committee against Torture on Greece’, 4 July 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2S5ewch.

[18] Council of Europe, ‘New complaint registered concerning Greece’, 21 December 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2SG0FpF.

[19] European Committee of Social Rights, Decision on admissibility and on immediate measures in the case  International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) v. Greece, Complaint No. 173/2018, 23 May 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/39clrGj.  

[20] GCR, The European Court of Human Rights provides interim measures to unaccompanied minors living in the RIC and the “jungle” of Samos island, 30 December 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2GYQY2p.

[21] EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Intervention (via video conference) in European Parliament LIBE Committee on the situation at the Union’s external borders in Greece, 2 April 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3adzSKl.

[22] EKKA, Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children (UAC) in Greece, 15 April 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3vpPEMR [last accessed 28 April 2021]. 

[23] IOM, UNHCR & UNICEF, “UN agencies welcome first relocation of unaccompanied children from Greece”, 15 April 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/2Pv0BNY.

[24] GCR & SCI, Children on the move (November-December 2021 update), available at:  https://bit.ly/3IK6mx0.

[25]  EKKA, Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children (UAC) in Greece, 31 December 2021,

available at: https://bit.ly/3NtWye7.

[26]  Ibid.

[27] Metadrasi, Supported Independent Living for unaccompanied minors, available at: https://bit.ly/2tPEljv.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation