A new reception centre for unaccompanied refugee boys opened in the suburbs of Athens on Tuesday, offering those who have made the perilous journey to Europe a safe space, away from traffickers and others seeking to exploit them.
Muhammad, 14, from Afghanistan, told our correspondent in the Greek capital:
“It was very difficult at the borders of Iran and Turkey.
“After I crossed the borders, it was easier. I didn’t face any difficulties.Then I arrived on Lesbos island where we stayed in a camp. It was like a jail. Our nerves were on edge. They didn’t let us do anything. We were trapped.”
Struggling to cope with tens of thousands of migrants and refugees, Greece has been criticised for keeping youngsters in overcrowded detention centres or even locking them up in police cells.
Seeking to tackle that situation, Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas told reporters: “We know we have too much work to do.”
“We try hard. We don’t know when and how we will succeed, as the problem is ongoing, but we will succeed. Not with the speed the problem requires, not with the speed that we expected, but faster than the objective circumstances allow.”
The new facility for 100 children is co-managed and funded by medical charity Médecins du Monde and the International Organisation for Migration.
Our correspondent Akis Tatsis said: “Greek authorities admit that many more steps are needed to effectively address the problem of unaccompanied minor refugees. However, both the state and partner NGOs emphasise that such reception centres help them to live like any other children of their age.”