Specialised Protection Network for Homeless Unaccompanied Minors
"Thank you so much for helping me to finally enter an accommodation facility with other children. Thank you to the marvellous teacher who so rapidly taught me to speak Greek."
- Fifteen-year-old boy who lived alone on the streets of Anthens until he came to the METAdrasi Day Centre (name not provided to protect his privacy)
The project in brief
The project is implemented by METAdrasi in Greece. It was launched in February 2020 and is ongoing.
The first Protection Network for Homeless Unaccompanied Minors includes the Day Centre, a safe space that the children can visit daily and receive services and support (individualised legal, psychosocial and educational and primary medical support), the Mobile Unit which traces homeless minors and offers street work, the Emergency Line that provides support/information on a 24/7 basis, and the Dormitory that constitutes an emergency and temporary shelter for homeless UAC offering wash amenities, food, and clothing.
The project aims to develop appropriate, immediate response protection and care mechanisms for children living in precarious conditions/homeless and facilitating access to safe accommodation solutions.
Main activities of the Good Practice
METAdrasi operates a Day Center/Info Desk as a point of reference for UAC living in homeless/ precarious conditions. UAC have access to educational, psychosocial, legal, and primary medical support (First Aid, accompaniment to hospitals, information on medical prescriptions) while they are being provided with NFIs and food. The 24/7 Emergency Line accessible via telephone number/Viber/WhatsApp is available to UAC to send their requests for assistance and book an appointment to the Day Center. The Mobile Unit locates minors and provides on-the-spot psychosocial support, food, and non-food items, while further referring UAC to the Day Center and Dormitory.
As of the beginning of 2021, both the Day Center and the Mobile Team, along with the 24/7 Interpretation Line support the NERM. The Day Center apart from self-referred UAC also receives UAC referred by the SSPUAM and the Mobile Team conducts street work activities in order to identify homeless UAC and refer them to the NERM, while it accompanies children to police stations and supports them -along with interpreters- during identification/registration procedures. Under the NERM, METAdrasi operates a 24/7 Interpretation Line with Interpreters on-call that support public authorities and other actors, in their interaction with homeless UAC.
Finally, the Dormitory provides emergency and temporary night shelter to homeless UAC in Athens. Pending identification of available place in shelters, UAC can spend their nights in the Dormitory and have access to clean clothes, food and hygiene facilities. During the day, UAC spend their time in the Day Center, attending educational and recreational activities.
Taking into consideration the Law 4760/2020 providing for the institutional elimination of protective custody, METAdrasi is participating in the National Emergency Response Mechanism (hereafter NERM), initiated by the Special Secretariat for the Protection of UAC (hereafter SSPUAM) under the Ministry of Migration and Asylum by means of the Day Centre, the Mobile Unit and the 24/7 Interpretation Line. In addition, METAdrasi in cooperation with the Municipality of Athens operates a Dormitory that offers safe night accommodation, wash amenities, food, and clothing. During the day, children are participating in the activities of the Day Centre.
- Ministry of Migration and asylum – Special Secretariat for the Protection of unaccompanied children
- UNHCR Greece
- Municipality of Athens
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
Soon after the beginning of the centre’s operation, the pandemic broke out, and the subsequent sanitary and restriction measures forced the decrease in capacity, and, by extension, in the number of children who could be served immediately, with the result of creating waiting lists of homeless minors.
Unregistered to the Asylum Service UAC did not have the necessary documents that would enable them to have access to public health services for medical examinations.
How they were overcome
METAdrasi created two additional activities, aiming at providing necessary support to children, while physical proximity in closed spaces was forbidden: the 24/7 Emergency Line, that, with the assistance of interpreters, offered counselling and specialised information about COVID-19 around the clock, and the Mobile Unit, with the aim to locate the children on the streets of Athens, especially when they could not commute freely due to the pandemic, or were in vulnerable situations, and to offer them basic necessities, individual care, and health and psychosocial support. During 2021, METAdrasi started the operation of the first Dormitory for homeless children in Greece.
In regard to barriers encountered by unregistered UAC to access Public Health Services, METAdrasi referred those UAC to medical NGOs and to specific hospitals following relevant communications. Due to their vulnerable status as homeless, METAdrasi also referred UAC to the Asylum Service for their urgent registration.
Results of the Good Practice
371 homeless unaccompanied children received support, while 101 of them were placed in safe accommodation
In 2021 560 children received support from the day center and 430 from the mobile unit
In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
The interlinked activities that constitute the Network for Homeless UAC aim to provide support to the large number of UAC living in precarious and/or homeless conditions in Athens. More specifically, the Network aims to cover the homeless minors’ urgent needs (accommodation, food, hygiene and wash facilities), to further provide basic medical, psychosocial, and legal services, and finally promote their integration into Greek society through a variety of educational courses and trainings. During the COVID-19 pandemic (especially during strict lockdowns), and in the absence of a state mechanism effectively providing translated information to refugees and asylum seekers, it provided essential support to homeless minors in terms of important information in a language that they can understand, completing accommodation requests and accompanying UAC to medical services necessary for their placement in accommodation facilities. The project also works in complementarity with State’s initiatives (i.e., NERM).
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
The Network aims to empower UAC living in precarious conditions in Athens through the following ways:
- supports the completion of important/urgent requests/needs (accommodation, legal, educational, psychosocial, medical)
- increases children’s integration prospects into Greek society through various educational courses (i.e., Greek, English, history, sociology)
- increases children’s self-resilience through training (i.e., Human Rights, Children Rights, Health Education etc)
- pending the successful completion of requests, UAC have access to safe spaces (Dormitory and Day Center) and to individualized assistance.
The project is expected to continue under METAdrasi’s own recourses.
Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?
Financial support to cover emergency expenditures (i.e., public transportation tickets, medical expenses) and operational costs (i.e., furniture) is important for the smooth operation of the activities.
Maria Pagona, Advocacy officer, METAdrasi- Action for Migration and Development
Cc: Julie Papanikolaou, Programme Manager, METAdrasi- Action for Migration and Development