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Urgent call to relocate lone children in Greek camps before Coronavirus spreads

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Existing concerns for the health and safety of refugee and migrant children on the Greek islands have been gravely compounded by Covid-19. Save the Children is calling for European Union member states to join efforts and hasten the relocation of unaccompanied children and families.

Some 40,900 asylum-seekers are staying on the Aegean islands, 34% of whom are children. More than half of children are under 12 years old.Camps are currently on lockdown and with people continuing to arrive, there is uncertainty around how any potential increase in needs will be met.

Save the Children Europe Director Anita Bay said:

The situation on the Greek islands is dire, with huge health and safety concerns that impact disproportionately on children. There is almost no access to running water and medical care in the camps. On Lesbos there is only one hospital with few beds available. Social distancing is impossible as thousands of people are cramped into small spaces. Clashes between camp residents, members of the local community and extremist groups are creating a climate of fear, made worse by concerns about Covid-19.

Children should not be reliving the trauma of conflict without proper shelter, medical care, or even running water as fears spread about Covid-19.

While recognising the strain governments are under, we must come together. European governments should speed up plans to transfer children from Greece. The Greek authorities should ensure children are identified and registered so transfers can take place as soon as possible.

“Only a global response will stop the spread of the virus everywhere. Emergency measures to protect children and families can and should be taken in a way that manages health risks related to Covid-19. The Greek refugee crisis is a European crisis, safety and health rules should apply to all without discrimination.”

Save the Children stands ready to support, with its expertise on child protection, to ensure the best interests of the child is respected throughout the procedure and after arrival.