Fears 20,000 refugee children could miss schooling in Greece

Migrants from Afghanistan and Iraq are most affected, aid agencies say

FILE PHOTO: A Syrian refugee boy stands in front of his family tent at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants next to the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/File photo

More than 20,000 children are in danger of being excluded from school while living at Greek migrant camps, a report from a leading charities said.

Aid agencies said there were “shockingly low numbers of refugee children” attending school on the Greek islands.

They said the problem was made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, because children did not have the internet connections to learn remotely or had to share smartphones with their parents and siblings.

Further problems included inadequate transport arrangements and hostility towards migrants from Greek communities, a report said.

Children from Afghanistan and Iraq are the most affected, humanitarian groups say, with more than a third of those in Greece never having been to school.

“Greece has a chronic problem when it comes to sending refugee children to school,” said Daniel Gorevan, a senior adviser for Save the Children.

“Even before Covid-19, less than a third of refugee and migrant children were actually enrolled and attending school.

“The current Greek government does not even keep a tally, so the depth of the crisis remains hidden and deprioritised.”

Save the Children published the findings with the Greek Council for Refugees, which urged Athens to “secure the future of these vulnerable children” as the new school year begins.

Low attendance rate

The charities said Greece had committed to teaching 20,000 children, but estimated only 15 per cent of those in refugee camps received formal schooling.

This dropped to 0.3 per cent in the much-criticised reception and identification centres where asylum seekers are processed.

Although there were many examples of initiatives to welcome refugees, there were also cases of politicians being harassed for supporting reception classes for migrant children, the report said.

It said Greek authorities should make clear to local school authorities that they had to offer schooling to every child, regardless of their legal status.

Athens agreed a plan with Unicef in June which would see 26,000 refugee children given a route into education. Charities urged Greece to live up to this.

Greece is a common arrival point for refugees entering Europe. Aid agencies have frequently criticised conditions in migrant facilities.

About 3,600 people have entered Greece this year over the land border with Turkey, while more than 2,000 have come ashore on Greek islands.

People from Afghanistan make up nearly half of those who have arrived this year, according to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR.

Updated: September 16, 2021, 9:39 AM