Press Release: Unaccompanied minor severely self-injured himself in Moria “first reception” detention centre in Lesvos

PRESS RELEASE 21.07.14 Lesvos

Unaccompanied minor severely self-injured himself in Moria “first reception” detention centre in Lesvos

On 17/7/2014 a 17-year-old Afghan who had been detained for many days in Moria awaiting his transfer to a special reception centre for minors cut his arms in an act of despair and protest as he could not stand anymore being closed up for many days and under such conditions. He was transferred to the psychiatry department of the local hospital.

In Greece there are 10 reception centres for unaccompanied minors with about 330 places in total that need to cover the needs of thousands. At the same time that a vast number of reception places are lacking many minors fear long detention upon arrival in Greece in so called First Reception Camps (detention centres) if they register with their real age and register themselves as adults. The background: Unaccompanied minors arriving in first reception centres have to undergo a number of medical examinations and then wait for a place in one of the overcrowded reception centres in order to be released. The detention duration varies and can reach one month or more months, while delays depend on the crowdedness in the reception facilities.

As a consequence hundreds of unaccompanied minors register as adults. They are being transferred to Pre-removal Detention Centres at the mainland, such as Amigdaleza, Corinth, Komotini, Xanthi, Fylakio or Drama / Parenesti where legal aid is not existing. When they realise that they end up facing 18 months detention or more due to their changed age all of them try to find ways to proof that they are minors.

Anyhow, if age-assesment has taken place already in First Reception Detention it is unlikely if not impossible (without the help of a lawyer) the authorities will approve a second age-assesment later. Age-assesment procedures have been recently defined in a Ministerial Decision for First Reception but not for Pre-Removal Detention Centres. As a result the procedures vary in the different places and more than that the ways and methods carried out are highly questionable. For this reason among others many unaccompanied minors end up in 18 month detention.

We demand for the immediate creation of sufficient special reception centres for unaccompanied minors. In this frame the Reception Centre for Unaccompanied Minors in Agiassos, Lesvos, which was closed earlier this year despite the huge need should be re-opened with the necessary funding to allow for its functioning.

And we demand for the immediate release of all unaccompanied minors in first reception detention centres, pre-removal centres or any other form of detention. As provided for in the Guidelines on Policies and Procedures in dealing with Unaccompanied Children Seeking Asylum from UNHCR (1997) “(T)he child should be given the benefit of the doubt if the exact age is uncertain” and “the main guiding principle in any child care and protection action is the principle of the ‘best interest of the child'”.

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