‘You have very little time to make the relationship work’: Christina Dimakou with some of the children in her care. Photo Credit: Nikos Pilos for the Observer

The Athens lawyer who became a guardian to refugee camp children

Article in The Guardian
24 May, 2017

An old article, then overlooked. The importance of well organised and properly funded guardianship systems for unaccompanied or separated migrant children cannot be overstated. They are key to fighting against the detention and deportation of children and in favour of their access to school, health care and public services. Unfortunately, they are inexistent or inefficient in too many countries. Many thanks to Cecilia.

“She is one of only a dozen members of the guardianship network, a fledgeling programme run by the Athens-based charity Metadrasi, designed to help the countless lost children who have arrived alone. Some have been separated from their families while fleeing Syria, others have taken it upon themselves to strike out and find a new home for relatives who will follow later. Many of them have been told they carry their family’s only hope…

It is the responsibility of officials from the Greek police and the European borders agency, Frontex, to ensure that all under-18s who arrive are taken into care if they are found to be without a parent or relative. The reality is that since the surge began earlier this year only a fraction of the true number of lost children have been caught in this shredded safety net…

Dimakou’s role is to take responsibility for individual children, to be their anthropos, the Greek word for person. She advises them of their legal rights, helps them access medical care and tries to steer them to an informed choice rather than submitting themselves to the dangers of the smugglers’ march through the Balkans…

While there is no end in sight to the refugee crisis and the need for more than the 12 existing guardians is glaring, the fate of the guardianship network is unclear. Greece’s well-documented economic woes mean state support is out of reach and the pilot scheme funded by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein is coming to an end.

The guardians receive a monthly stipend for their work and would continue to offer their services for free. But without basic funding the network cannot survive for long.”

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