International and Greek law provides protection for children traveling without their parents or close family. But the legal definition of ‘unaccompanied child’ might be different from the understandings of some people traveling. A ‘unaccompanied child’ is under 18 years old who is not with his or her parents, or with someone who takes on the same role as a parent. This means that for example a 16 year old traveling with close friends or even cousins is legally an unaccompanied child.
On arrival to the islands unaccompanied children traveling this way are the formal responsibility of the local Public Prosecutor, and often come under the supervision of the police or other reception services.
Unaccompanied children are registered and kept under close surveillance, to verify identity and for medical checks. This can mean that children are put in detention, or in temporary housing, while this process happens. Then they are sent from the island to centres Athens or elsewhere in Greece. These are safe environments run by NGOs with shelter, food, education and other support. However there are only a small number of places available at these centres.
Some people under 18 years old may feel safe with their travel companions. However others may be at risk from the people around them, or even be traveling entirely by themselves. People under 18 who feel unsafe can contact others for support, including NGOs that provide help. One is the Greek organization Praksis, who have shelters on the islands and in Athens, where children can stay and leave whenever they wish. The contact number for Praksis in Athens is +30 2105205200.
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