Plan International welcomes the European Commission’s action plan to find solutions for unaccompanied migrant children in Greece announced on March 6th. However, we reiterate our deep concern about the situation of child and adolescent refugees and asylum seekers arriving to Greece. Plan International is committed to upholding and promoting the rights of children and therefore calls on the EU for urgent and systematic action- to ensure that all children are fully protected.
Since Turkey opened the border to Greece a little over a week ago, thousands of people seeking asylum have been attempting to get to Europe, including large numbers of children. We are extremely alarmed by measures taken by the Greek authorities and military to prevent sea-borne refugees reaching the Greek islands, which have included the use of tear gas and water cannons. We would urge the EU to respond to these developments prioritising human rights and humanitarian principles.
For Plan International it is paramount, that human rights are respected, especially when it comes to children, regardless of their legal status. The EU has the responsibility to offer children protection and asylum in situations where they are at risk of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.
Forced displacement can involve a bitter irony: children flee situations in which their lives are already at grave risk, but in doing so, face renewed levels of vulnerability, particularly when travelling alone. Children are forced to embark on life-threatening journeys, in order to reach a place of perceived safety.
Unaccompanied children who are currently on the move are oftentimes exposed to grave risks living in limbo, in overcrowded and inhumane. Most are deprived of access to their most basic rights, including shelter, safe water, food, medical and psychosocial care, and education. In reception and admission centres and camps - places of supposed safety - children are exposed to new, often gender-related risks. Girls and young women in are at particular risk of being exposed to discrimination and violence.
The European Union and its Member States must uphold their commitments to children’s rights, humanitarian principles and international refugee law, in emergency settings as the one at the border of Turkey and Greece. In particular, Plan International calls on the European Union and its Member States to:
- Urgently ensure that the protection and welfare of children is prioritised and that their immediate needs are addressed. States must never override their duty to protect and uphold human rights and best interests of all children, irrespective of their status.
- Ensure that the emergency relocation of unaccompanied children from the Greek islands to other European Union Member States addresses the situation of the 5.500 unaccompanied children identified. This must be done through a systematic approach that is fully in line with children’s rights and addresses the best interest of the child.
 UN General Assembly (1989) Convention on the Rights of the Child, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, Article 19.