When I was a little kid, I lost my mum in the supermarket. I still remember the terror of those minutes vividly. But on the Greek islands, children as young as eight live totally alone in freezing tents, for months at a time.
Yesterday I was told about a ten-year-old unaccompanied child living on Samos. When he was asked what he needed, rather than a sleeping bag, a jacket or food, he asked for a football. He really did need a sleeping bag, a jacket and food, but he didn’t know that. Children aren’t meant to know what they need in order to survive winter. On Samos these kids are forced to understand things, see things, and experience things that no one should – let alone a child.
On Samos, around 400 of these children live alone in the camp and overflow area which surrounds the official compound. They’re left to fend for themselves. They’re constantly cold and dirty and have to queue for hours for food. They don’t go to school, and when night falls they’re exposed to horrifying dangers. Depression, self harm and suicidal tendencies are commonplace among these kids.
Across Europe, there are thousands of unaccompanied refugee children who have family in the UK. But rather than allowing these children to escape tortuous conditions and reunite with family members, the UK government is trying close family reunion for lone refugee children after Brexit.
It is easy to see politics as something big, abstract and irrelevant, but here on Samos we can see the devastating impact of hostile refugee policies on a daily basis.
Some of the children here are so traumatised they scream out in their sleep. We cannot turn our backs on these most vulnerable children. We should all be screaming out.”
Hannah is a Field Manager for Help Refugees on the Greek island of Samos.
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