UN Special Rapporteur Urges Greece to Protect the Rights of Minors

According to a 16 November 2005 article by the UN News Centre, Mr Juan Miguel Petit, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography, warned that the Greek government must create a national policy to protect the rights of minors. At the conclusion of his six-day visit to Greece, Mr. Petit presented his preliminary findings in Athens on 15 November 2005, in which he concluded that 'the country still needs a comprehensive approach to child protection'. The independent expert noted that Greece has a continued obligation to protect minors and victims of trafficking.

The Special Rapporteur noted a decisive link between poverty and trafficking. During his visit, Mr. Petit was accompanied by the non-governmental organization Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) to Romani communities in Votanikos, in the centre of Athens, where the Special Rapporteur noted the critical situation of Romani children. He later voiced concerns about their situation, saying many live "in unacceptable conditions without adequate access to education and basic services". Mr Petit called upon the Greek Government to uphold its duty to "give Roma children alternatives other than street work or prostitution as survival strategies". A joint case study by GHM and Minority Rights Group – Greece (MRG-G), published in November 2005, confirms Mr. Petit's findings regarding Romani children being denied access to education. The case study documents, over the period of a year and a half, efforts to assist children in the Psari Roma community, in the Aspropyrgos municipality (near Athens), to register and attend school. The findings indicate that access to education for the Roma in Greece is often impossible due to reactions by racist non-Roma neighbors and reluctance on the part of local, regional and central state authorities to implement the legal framework ensuring positive state obligations.

The Special Rapporteur's visit to Greece immediately followed a visit to Albania, and Mr. Petit noted that the purpose of visiting the neighbouring countries consecutively was to gain a better understanding of the transnational dynamics of the issue. He emphasized that trafficking is a global issue that requires collaborative efforts and recommended the creation of a commission made up of Greek and Albanian authorities to resolve the case of some 500 children who disappeared from the Aghia Varvara children's institute, between 1998-2002. According to a GHM press release on the same day, to date, only 4 of the 500 missing Albanian street children, mostly Roma and Egyptian children who were taken by authorities to the Aghia Varvara children's institution, have been located in Albania.

(GHM, UN News Centre)

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