Harsh truths behind child refugees fleeing war – alone

Shaharzad Hassan, 8 year-old from the Syrian city of Aleppo poses with a drawing she made at the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, Friday, March 11, 2016. (AP)

Members of the Coast Guard serving the Greek islands described, during a press conference, the tragic images they are facing daily while trying to rescue migrants and refugees from drowning in the Aegean Sea.

The numbers of the unaccompanied refugee children arriving to the Greek islands from the Turkish coast is showing a tremendous increase in comparison to those of the first quarter of 2016.

According to the President of the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Personnel Coast Guard Associations, Thanos Tsatsoulis, half a million refugees arrived to the Greek island of Lesvos in 2015, while the number of the unaccompanied children among them (up to the age of 13) was 750.

Meanwhile, fifty thousand arrived at the island of Kos during 2015 including 93 unaccompanied children, while in Leros 127,000 refugees arrived and 210 unescorted children were among them.

A girl carries a child inside a refugee camp for the internally displaced persons in Jrzinaz area, southern countryside of Idlib, Syria October 13, 2015. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

A girl carries a child inside a refugee camp for the internally displaced persons in Jrzinaz area, southern countryside of Idlib, Syria October 13, 2015. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Officer Kyriacos Papadopoulos, serving on the island of Lesvos, while attempting to explain the increase in numbers of unescorted children arriving, said that according to testimonies of those who can communicate in English with members of the staff, the parents stay behind as their financial situation only allows them to pay for the transportation of their children. After the little ones arrive, most of them contact their parents through Facebook.

More specifically, the parents have consulted their children, after their arrival to any institution that would accept them, either in Greece or elsewhere in Europe, to give them a sign of life through Facebook and communicate with them their location in order for their parents or relatives to try and join them.

A recently created Facebook page under the name “Search and find your family for refugees,” originated in Austria, has this exclusive purpose; to reunite refugee families. In each posting, there is the name and family name, the exact area of origin and last residence, and the specific date and place of immigration accompanied usually by a mug shot of the person lost or searching for someone. Each post starts with the number of the case, which has now reached 304.

Referring to several incidents, in which the marine authorities of the Aegean Sea are involved, Papadopoulos stressed that in many cases there is a complete feeling of panic from the passengers, which doesn’t allow them to even have a sense of their exact location. Sometimes, they are not even sure if they are still in the sea or in a river. About 50 passengers are usually placed in small boats made for about 6 to 8 people.

“Due to the stress the situation creates, most of the time, the displacement of the load causes the boat to capsize, and many infants are found without life jackets,” Papadopoulos added.

I’m reaching out to all those of you happen to be on any of the Greek islands that are currently receiving refugees, please help any child you see that might be unaccompanied by posting their details on social media. It will take you less than five minutes to help a little boy or girl reunite with their families.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47