Situation in Malakasa. Photo: private

Following two requests for interim measures before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), two unaccompanied children from Syria aged 12 and 13 are finally transferred to a shelter for minors after over two months of confinement in unsafe conditions.

In March 2020, the two Syri­an boys arri­ved in Greece unac­com­pa­nied. They were arres­ted and auto­ma­ti­cal­ly pla­ced in detenti­on despi­te being reco­g­nis­ed as minors. They were issued with detenti­on and depor­ta­ti­on orders and were detai­ned among adults in degra­ding con­di­ti­ons pur­su­ant to an emer­gen­cy decree adopted on 2 March 2020 by the Greek govern­ment, which sus­pen­ded access to asyl­um for one month and fore­saw imme­dia­te depor­ta­ti­on for tho­se ente­ring the Greek ter­ri­to­ry, wit­hout regis­tra­ti­on to their count­ries of ori­gin or to Tur­key. As a result of the decree, peo­p­le arri­ving in Greece in March,  inclu­ding the two minors, were arbi­tra­ri­ly denied the right to make an asyl­um appli­ca­ti­on and to bene­fit from the rights and entit­le­ments con­fer­red on asyl­um see­kers by dome­stic and Euro­pean Uni­on law.

On 27 March 2020 RSA appea­led befo­re ECtHR, reques­t­ing the Court to indi­ca­te inte­rim mea­su­res under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court for the pro­tec­tion of the two unac­com­pa­nied child­ren and their trans­fer to sui­ta­ble recep­ti­on facilities.

Mean­while, the two boys recei­ved on 7 April 2020 poli­ce refer­ral notes informing them that they had been released from detenti­on, alt­hough until the end of April no one was per­mit­ted to exit the facility.

Fol­lo­wing cor­re­spon­dence bet­ween the Court and the govern­ment, on 15 April 2020  the ECtHR deci­ded not to grant inte­rim mea­su­res, on the ground that the govern­ment had alre­a­dy made com­mit­ments to ensu­re that the appli­cants would recei­ve tre­at­ment in accordance with Artic­le 3 of the Euro­pean Con­ven­ti­on on Human Rights (ECHR). Yet, the appli­cants had sub­mit­ted infor­ma­ti­on indi­ca­ting that no chan­ge in their situa­ti­on had taken place.

RSA lodged a fresh request for inte­rim mea­su­res on 23 April 2020, fol­lo­wing which the Court adjour­ned its decis­i­on and reques­ted again the govern­ment to indi­ca­te “what con­cre­te mea­su­res have been taken for the appli­cants’ trans­fer, as well as for the appoint­ment of a guardian”.

The pre­di­ca­ment of the two boys lea­ving Mala­ka­sa this week illus­tra­tes the chro­nic gaps in the pro­tec­tion of unac­com­pa­nied child­ren and the absence of an effec­ti­ve guar­di­an­ship sys­tem in Greece.

The child­ren were ulti­m­ate­ly trans­fer­red to an accom­mo­da­ti­on place on 7 and 8 May respec­tively, that is over two months after their arri­val in Greece.

While wel­co­ming the appli­cants’ recent trans­fer to a shel­ter for minors, RSA reg­rett­ab­ly notes that deman­ding liti­ga­ti­on pro­ce­du­res and recour­se befo­re the Stras­bourg Court for inte­rim reli­ef have beco­me neces­sa­ry to secu­re the con­side­ra­ti­on and pro­tec­tion of even the most basic rights of child­ren. Recour­se to the ECtHR is not acces­si­ble in every case of child­ren at risk and can­not sub­sti­tu­te a relia­ble and well-func­tio­ning child pro­tec­tion sys­tem, which remains a pres­sing need for Greece.

In April 2020, in a dif­fe­rent case con­cer­ning a home­l­ess unac­com­pa­nied boy living in desti­tu­ti­on in a Greek city, the ECtHR again refu­sed to grant inte­rim mea­su­res reques­ted under Rule 39 inclu­ding the pla­ce­ment of the child in a shel­ter for minors. Until today the child still sleeps rough in the streets and the govern­ment has taken no mea­su­res for the chil­d’s protection.

The pre­di­ca­ment of the two boys lea­ving Mala­ka­sa this week illus­tra­tes the chro­nic gaps in the pro­tec­tion of unac­com­pa­nied child­ren and the absence of an effec­ti­ve guar­di­an­ship sys­tem in Greece. It is also tes­ta­ment to an incre­asing dis­re­gard on the part of the aut­ho­ri­ties of obli­ga­ti­ons enshri­ned in natio­nal, Euro­pean and inter­na­tio­nal law, and a fail­ure to fol­low through on gua­ran­tees pro­vi­ded to the ECtHR.

RSA and PRO ASYL con­ti­nue to defend the rights of the most vul­nerable and will assist the child­ren in their fami­ly reuni­fi­ca­ti­on pro­ce­du­re with rela­ti­ves in Germany.

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