The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says it is alarmed by
the detention of unaccompanied children in Lesvos, Greece. It says the
children are living in appalling conditions at a detention center
The U.N. refugee agency says staff members were shocked when
they saw the living condition of asylum seekers detained at the Pagani
facility on the Greek island of Lesvos.
Andrej Mahecic, says more than 850 people are being held in the center,
which is meant to hold only a maximum of 300 people. He says this
group includes some 200 unaccompanied children, mainly from Afghanistan.
UNHCR staff described the condition of the center as unacceptable,"
said Mahecic. "One room houses over 150 women and 50 babies, many
suffering from illnesses related to the cramped and unsanitary
conditions of the center."
"The deputy minister of health and social
solidarity has given UNHCR his assurances that all the unaccompanied
children at Pagani will be transferred to special reception facilities
by the end of the month. The ministry has already taken some measures
to that effect," he added.
Mahecic says Greece's asylum system has big
problems. Last year, he says, the UNHCR with the support of the Greek
Ministry of Interior, made recommendations for a complete overhaul of
the system, including specific measures to protect children seeking
asylum. But, he notes, these proposals, so far, have not been
"In 2008, the Greek Coast Guard reported the
arrival of 2,648 unaccompanied children, but many more are believed to
have entered the country undetected. Greece has no process for
assessing the individual needs and best interests of these children,"
Mahecic says the government has made efforts to
increase the number of places for children at specialized, open
centers. But, he says those arriving in Greece outstrip these efforts,
so children remain in detention for long periods.
He says Greece accepts far fewer refugees than other European countries.