On Europe´s failure to protect refugee children on Chios

Dies ist ein Beitrag von Michael Bader. Er studierte Rechtswissenschaft in Leipzig, Rouen und derzeit an der HU Berlin. Er ist Mitbegründer der Refugee Law Clinic Leipzig, deren ersten Ausbildungszyklus er absolvierte. Sein Interessenschwerpunkt liegt auf inter-, supra- und nationalen Menschenrechten und deren Durchsetzung.


On the 20th of November the international community celebrated the 27th Anniversary of the commencement of the United Nation Convention of the Rights of the Child (UN CRC). This international treaty dates back to 1989 and has been described as the global recognition of children´s vulnerability and their specific need for protection and care. But where is the European community in the wake of thousands of children being deprived of almost every right stated in this convention on a daily basis?

 Children in need

Children make up half of the refugee population and are deemed the most vulnerable group of refugees. Since March, many NGOs, running on private donations and volunteers, are present on the Greek island of Chios close to Çeşme, the Izmir harbor. The NGOs founded two schools and a youth center and try to ensure accommodation, psychological treatment and basic aliments. But where is the state of Greece and especially the European community when it comes to the protection of refugee children?

The circumstances for refugees on the Greek-Turkey boarder

Since the EU-Turkey-Deal, far less refugee boats have arrived on the Greek islands close to the Turkish border. Despite the closure of EU-boarders, many people still try to escape war, poverty, violence and death by crossing the Aegean Sea.

Whereas for Europeans, the ocean in between Greece and Turkey might be a beautiful spot for vacation, people who forcibly had to leave everything behind, oftentimes spend all they have left to cross these 10 km of ocean. The fact that refugees fleeing a war zone need to illegally cross “our” boarders by taking this dangerous route alone, is unjustifiable. The consequence however is far more than a dangerous crossing: The struggle for the money needed to do so is a breeding ground for sexual and labour exploitation and an open door for human trafficking. The victims are the most vulnerable, oftentimes children.

What do Europe and its states do?

If the refugees beat the odds and the boat engine works until they arrive on Chios´ shore, there is usually no assistance from any Greek or EU institution. Instead, NGOs and their volunteers on the island come and help to get the arriving people off the boats, provide them with the basic necessities, if they can: Water, something to eat, blankets. Local police or government officials register the newly arrived and bring them to the official refugee camp “Vial”, 8 km inside the island and right beside the island´s garbage dump. Another refugee camp, “Souda”, not an official camp but tolerated, can be found in the centre of Chios city. Families, unaccompanied children, traumatized by war and flight are stuck on the there for many months beeing left alone with their grief and despair. Two months ago – in the same week the international community celebrated the UN CRC´s anniversary – a new level of violence and state´s ignorance was reached when a far right group, consisting of 60 – 80 neo-fascists of the Greek party “Golden Dawn” attacked the camp with Molotov cocktails and heavy rocks. Allegedly police was present in riot gear, but stood by while the situation was escalating. Five humanitarian organizations operating on Chios have signed the chronological report of the events and urge state actors to get involved.

Not only in the wake of such horrific attacks, but looking at the continuing situation on this island since March, the question arises if such course of action by state officials is backed by the international and regional European human rights provisions.

Legal Framework

At the global level, refugee children enjoy the rights guaranteed by the UN Treaties, once ratified by the country in question. Beyond the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), refugee children are protected by the provisions of the UN CRC and its protocol. Greece is among the 196 member states, which ratified the UN CRC. Ratification means that in these 196 states, the document is binding law. Art. 6 No. 1 of the UN CRC reads “States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child“. Art. 20 No. 1: “A child temporarily or permanently deprived of his or her family (…) shall be entitled to special protection and assistance provided by the State.” Art. 4 obligates States Parties to “undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention”.

It is not only a violation of these articles when Molotov Cocktails are thrown by fascists at refugee families and children and the police stand by. This is just the tip of a growing iceberg baring the fruits of right-wing populism and structural blatant and racist othering. But the complete failure of national governments and EU institutions to abide by their international commitments and to ensure the protection of refugee children, is most concerning. Up to 10.000 children went missing after arriving in Europe due to failed protection. Why is no relevant measure being taken by the state of Greece or the current 28 state strong European Union?


Zitiervorschlag: Michael Bader: On europe´s failure to protect Refugee children on Chios , DerAsylrechtsblog, 05.01.2017, http://derasylrechtsblog.com/2017/01/05/on-europes-failure-to-protect-refugee-children-on-chios/.

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