More than 1,600 unaccompanied children are staying in government-run reception facilities across Greece’s Aegean Islands. The Moria reception center is one such facility where nearly 1,000 children without parents or relatives, most of them teens, live among 12,800 people. Half are housed in 4 protected sections and a Safe Zone, but the rest sleep in a tent-like warehouse with adult asylum seekers.
Children seeking asylum by themselves (without parents or relatives) feel insecure and face poor conditions and threats in Moria. Among them is Zemar (name has been changed for security), a 15-year-old from Afghanistan. He arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos last month after being separated from his parents and surviving a string of traumatic experiences. His first night at Moria, thieves stole his bag. ‘They took everything’, he said, ‘I had no one to talk to’. Another night he was attacked, and after escaping, he spent the night on the sidewalk next to a police patrol at Moria’s main gate. He said he was safe, but unable to explain to the officers what had happened because there was no interpreter.
In a recent report, UNHCR suggests that the European States must step up their efforts to protect child refugees and migrants who have endured not only dangerous journeys, but who face risks and hardship once in Europe, including unsafe accommodation, being incorrectly registered as adults, and lack of appropriate care.
‘We all feel useless … I have so much stress. I am losing my memory. Every time I sleep I have nightmares. All I want is to see my family again,’ says Zemar.