Martine Goeman, lawyer at Defence for Children, is in Greece. She is visiting children and their families in refugee camp Moria on Lesvos. The children’s rights violations that we have seen by walking around in camp Moria are countless. We will do something about this.
Goeman: “A blanket attached to a fence and a carton board on the ground, that is the sleeping place of two little children and their mother. Together with 10.254 other people they are trying to survive at camp Moria on Lesvos, where there is actually only space for 3.100 people. Every day, another 200 people arrive. Amongst whom a lot of children. The children do not have shelter, do not go to school and there is little water and food. The smell in the camp is overwhelming due to a shortage of toilets and showers. Inspired by our Children’s Rights Helpdesk in the Netherlands and with the help of the Dutch Postcode Lottery (NPL), Greek lawyers are going to stand up for the rights of those children.”
Children have stopped talking
After a life-threatening journey, people arrive at camp Moria. In Moria, there is no warm welcome. Under the watchful eye of the police, the newly arrived people are gathered as a group on the main square in the middle of the camp. There they have to wait the whole day to be registered. Information is not provided. Children sit silently on their mom’s or dad’s lap, not knowing where they have ended up. After they pass registration, the children and their parents stay behind a high fence with barbed wire. Behind the high fence, there is an overcrowded tent. This week, it came out that a riot took place there. It is a miracle that this does not happen much more often. Months of waiting behind a high fence with barbed wire, without knowing what will happen to you, makes people desperate. Recently, Doctors Without Borders has reported that children have stopped talking due to their traumas and living conditions in camp Moria.
Mistakes with age registration
Amongst the people in Moria, there are around 794 unaccompanied minors. These children are looking for protection in Europe without their parents. In reality, the number of unaccompanied minors is higher because many children are registered as adults because there is no space in the shelter for unaccompanied minors. After the official registration, it is almost impossible to correct the registered age.
See video: in Moria (subtitles available in English)
Lawyers working together
“Human dignity is being taken away from the children and we want to give it back to them”, says Phillip Worthington, director of our partner European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL). The Children’s Rights Helpdesk of Defence for Children is going to collaborate with ELIL to stand up for the rights of the children in camp Moria. We will ensure that the children, also those who have been wrongly registered as adult, will be properly prepared for their asylum interview at the immigration services and that they will be assisted by a lawyer during the procedure. Furthermore, the family reunification procedure of children that have family members in other European countries will be supported, so that they can leave the camp as soon as possible.
Martine Goeman: “By cooperating with Greek lawyers, we want to enable the children to start believing in the future again. The children should know that they have rights and that it is not normal what is being done to them on European territory. There is too little attention for the children’s rights violations that, partly in the name of the Dutch government, happen in Moria every day. We help the children with their asylum procedures and we will make sure their voices are heard.”