child refugees protest family reunification

Child Refugees in Greece to be Reunited with UK Families

Unaccompanied child refugees in Greece are finally allowed to reunite with family members in the UK.

Child refugees in Greece have been forced into destitution, living in squalor and danger at the best of times – even without COVID-19 as many live in limbo without any family members or parents with them. Now, however, the Home Office has outlined plans to reunite them with UK family members.

Teenage migrant Mustafa said: “I’ve learned to live alone. I’ve learnt to be alone, but all the time I think about my family. I had to leave [Somalia] because I was afraid for my life.” 

The resettlement initiative to unite child refugees in Greece with UK family members is thanks to a joint action plan between the two countries. 

child refugees protest family reunification
Refugees stranded in Athens, Greece, protested for family reunification in September last year. [Image: AFP/The National.]

Giorgos Koumoutsakos, Athens’ alternate minister for migration policy, labelled the plan as a “very comprehensive agreement” that will assist “the most vulnerable migrants in this country.” 

Estimations suggest 5,600 lone children are surviving in refugee camps in Greece, with 300 of those in police cells and detention centres.  

Approximately 100,000 of refugees are in Greece, with many of their facilities and camps bursting at the seams. The government has been calling on the rest of Europe to help resettle and reunite children with their various existing family members across the continent.

Estimations suggest 5,600 lone children are surviving in refugee camps in Greece, with 300 of those in police cells and detention centres

As of March this year, 10 EU countries have agreed to assist 1,600 young people with relocation.  

The UNHCR’s representative in Greece, Philippe Leclerc, said: “Family reunification procedures are cumbersome, they take too much time and are often implemented in a restrictive way.” 

COVID-19 has meant migrants are experiencing severe delay to their resettlement.  

50 refugees from the Greek camps arrived in the UK this week so they may be reunited with relatives already in Britain. The transfer of migrants from the Greek capital, Athens, was made using a repatriation flight. Those joining families in the UK were given the go-ahead in March but due to COVID-19 flight restrictions, were unable to make the last bit of their journey. 

child refugees protests
Unaccompanied children are protesting to unite with their family members across Europe. [Image: Picture-Alliance/dpa/S.Baltagiannis/DW.]

Families signed an open letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel and the Foreign Secretary pleading for their help. 

Bath Gardiner-Smith, CEO of Safe Passage International, said: “The British and Greek governments have shown real leadership in reuniting these families despite the travel difficulties and we now urge the UK and other countries across Europe to continue these efforts to reunite the families still waiting and ensure no one is left behind.” 

The charity argues that no family reunification plans have been made upon signing the plan, with the Home Office’s statement focusing on “illegal migration”

However, Refugee Legal Support (RLS) argue that the move has not gone far enough. RLS state that the new action plan does not address the fact many children are living in inhumane conditions in Greek refugee camps. The charity argues that no family reunification plans have been made upon signing the plan, with the Home Office’s statement focusing on “illegal migration”. 

RLS is urging the British government to put in place obvious and accessible support for lone minors in Europe post-Brexit, a prospect which once seemed unlikely as the Government voted down the continuation of the Dublin II Regulation – the legislation that honoured reuniting child refugees abroad with family members.

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