Child Rights Helpdesk website

Work Defence for Children and partners on Lesvos has (temporarily) stopped

5 March 2020

The situation on Lesbos, Greece, has been tense for weeks. Last weekend, habitants tried to obstruct the migrants boats to get on shore. In addition, the last few weeks dozens of people got injured by multiple confrontations between habitants and the police. Dutch social workers from ‘Stichting Bootvluchteling’ are hiding themselves, after they have been attacked. The work of Defence for Children and our partners on Lesbos has stopped since last week.

In and around the reception camp Moria live around 20.000 people, seven times more the amount than what the camp is designed for. And for the sixth year in a row, boat refugees keep on arriving. It concerns men, women, children and babies, who often are more vulnerable and traumatised.

Our work has stopped

The amount of child rights violations are almost uncountable. There is barely sanitation, children sleep in shabby tents and children are even trying to commit suicide. They do not get the chance to be a child. Children in families are often not heard in the asylum procedures. Children without parents are being detained, there is no supervision in the night. Rapes occur and the overall situation is very unsafe.

Through our project partner European Lawyers in Lesvos, Defence for Children offers individual legal aid to child refugees in Lesvos. This way, hundreds of children get help with their asylum application or with family reunification. Due to the unsafe situation on Lesvos, our colleagues have been forced to temporarily put their work down. Philip Worthington, director of our project partner European Lawyers in Lesvos says: “The current situation makes it impossible for asylum seekers to use the already scarce provisions. Everything has been put on hold. This has a huge impact on the people, in particular the children and other vulnerable groups.”

No protection

Through the media the world saw horrible footage of arriving boats with refugees who are attacked and even shot at. People who have just arrived are pushed back into the sea and buses with newcomers are stopped on their way to Moria, the refugee camp. The local police force is too small to act adequately against this and offers no protection. As a result of the disagreements between the European government and Turkey and the EU-Turkey deal, more people arrive at Lesvos every day. Thousands of people are waiting in uncertainty.

Call: tackle the child rights violations

Defence for Children calls on the Dutch government and Europe to take immediate action to tackle the massive child rights violations. The huge backlogs in the asylum procedure must be eliminated and it must be ensured that organizations can do their work on the ground. Member states must also take their responsibility and accept refugees, as agreed.

Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which all member states of the European Union are party, refugee children must be given extra protection. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union also states that the rights of the children must be paramount. In addition, the European member states have agreed that human dignity must be respected and protected. Children need our protection, now more than ever before.