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Experts of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Ask Greece about Roma Children and Push Backs of Refugees at the Border

Meeting Summaries

 

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined fourth to sixth periodic report of Greece under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Committee Experts asked questions about the situation of Roma children in Greece and push backs of refugees at the border

Concerning Roma children, a Committee Expert noted that discrimination against Roma children remained a concern. What was being done to combat racial discrimination? What measures had been adopted to combat child marriage, particularly in Roma and Muslim communities? Another Committee Expert raised the issue of birth registration for Roma children, asking about the status of a project for registering Roma births, noting that many Roma children were registered without a first name or not at all.

A Committee Expert asked about the situation of push backs of refugees, noting that Greece had specified that there was no evidence of this. However, information had been received, regarding a report, which detailed that a significant number of push back events at the border had been identified, leading to the resignation of the director of the agency. Was Greece planning on opening new and comprehensive enquiries into these serious allegations, which also included push backs of children?

Responding to questions on the Roma community, the delegation said that regarding early marriages, this was a complex issue relating to extreme poverty, among other factors. The new national strategy and action plan for Roma had specific measures to promote the employability of Roma people. Additional actions were being taken to improve Roma living conditions and therefore reduce early marriages. The delegation said there was no problem to provide the first name of Roma children. A provision was adopted in 2018, giving the opportunity for pregnant mothers to register new-born children in the hospital, without having the necessary identification documents.

On push backs, the delegation said that Greece was aware of the OLAF report of the European Anti-Fraud Office and its impact. All necessary actions, as foreseen in European Union legislation, had been implemented and conducted with third party nationals, including minors. The Greek Ombudsman and other mechanisms were considered enough to ensure that all allegations were examined, and punishments would be provided if necessary.

In opening remarks, Panos Alexandris, Secretary General for Justice and Human Rights, Chair of the National Mechanism for the Elaboration, Monitoring and Evaluation of Action Plans on the Rights of the Child, Ministry of Justice of Greece, said that the catalytic impact of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was fully acknowledged in Greece. The principles enshrined therein, which included non-discrimination, the best interest of the child, as well as the need to consider the views of the child, formed part of Greece’s policies and actions. Last June, Greece had adopted the first national action plan on the rights of the child for the period 2021-2023. This was a comprehensive and holistic framework of protection, based on an interdisciplinary and cross-ministerial framework. The national mechanism for elaborating, monitoring, and evaluating national action plans for the rights of the child had undertaken the pivotal “pilot programme”, bringing together all relevant public sector entities as well as the United Nations Children’s Fund.

In concluding remarks, Velina Todorova, Vice Chair of the Committee and Coordinator of the Task Force for Greece, said that her impression was that the meeting time was not used properly. An exchange of information was necessary. The dialogue had been abstract until 15 minutes ago when the delegation gave the Committee figures about institutions in Greece. The task of the Committee was not to review the legislation of Greece but to see how the Convention and the Government’s actions changed the lives of children in Greece. Ms. Todorova doubted that this was achieved. She thanked the delegation and hoped the concluding observations would be of assistance.

Mr. Alexandris thanked the Committee for their constructive questions, saying it had been an enriching experience. All concluding observations would be examined which would guide the work of Greece moving forward. The country was putting significant effort towards children’s rights, and the Committee’s recommendations would be thoroughly discussed and disseminated.

Mikiko Otan, Committee Chair, said the dialogue had been challenging given the four-hour time frame. The Committee would try its best to make concrete and useful recommendations for the delegation of Greece. Ms. Otani thanked the delegation and extended best wishes on behalf of the Committee to all the children in Greece.

The delegation of Greece consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Citizen Protection; the Ministry of National Defence; the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs; the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Interior; the Ministry of Migration and Asylum; the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy; and the Office of the Minister of State.

The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 5 February at 10 a.m. to begin its consideration of the combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Iceland (CRC/C/ISL/5-6).

Report

The Committee has before it the combined fourth to sixth periodic report of Greece (CRC/C/GRC/4-6)

Presentation of Report

PANOS ALEXANDRIS, Secretary General for Justice and Human Rights, Chair of the National Mechanism for the Elaboration, Monitoring and Evaluation of Action Plans on the Rights of the Child, Ministry of Justice of Greece, said that it was an honour to present the significant progress achieved across the board in Greece on the vital issue of the protection of the rights of the child. The last discussion had taken place over 10 years ago, and much had been achieved since then.

The catalytic impact of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was fully acknowledged in Greece. The principles enshrined therein, which included non-discrimination, the best interest of the child, as well as the need to consider the views of the child, formed part of Greece’s policies and actions. Mr. Alexandris said that human dignity and human rights, the rule of law, and equal rights for all were the cornerstones of democratic and peaceful societies. Such principles and rights applied even more coherently to children. Children deserved to grow up in a world of peace, freedom, solidarity and justice.

Last June, Greece had adopted the first national action plan on the rights of the child for the period 2021-2023. This was a comprehensive and holistic framework of protection, based on an interdisciplinary and cross-ministerial framework. The national mechanism for elaborating, monitoring and evaluating national action plans for the rights of the child had undertaken the pivotal “pilot programme”, bringing together all relevant public sector entities as well as the United Nations Children’s Fund. Mr. Alexandris said Greece aimed to do better and achieve more while elaborating and implementing the next national action plan. The country remained committed to providing a better present and future for children, the citizens of tomorrow.

Questions by Committee Experts

VELINA TODOROVA, Vice Chair of the Committee and Coordinator of the Task Force for Greece, expressed regret that the delegation could not be in Geneva, which meant they had only four hours for the review instead of six, and asked for updated information only due to the time constraints. The Committee was concerned about the gaps in and fragmentation of legislation regarding children’s rights. The major issue was the lack of a legal basis for establishing a comprehensive child protection system for all children in Greece, particularly those in vulnerable situations. What were the plans for the Government to introduce key framework legislation and respective procedural protocols for child protection protocols, to bring together fragmented legislation under a holistic legal framework and revise them where necessary? Were there plans to legally establish mandatory education, supervision, evaluation and training of professionals working with children in the public and private sector? Were there plans to integrate children’s rights and the Convention properly in this education?

Ms. Todorova said that in the Universal Periodic Review of Greece last year, it was stated that Greece was not yet able to ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention on individual communications. Could the reasons for this be elaborated on? Regarding the national action plan on the rights of the child for 2021-2023, this was still not signed by all competent ministers. How was the plan being implemented if not agreed by the line ministers? Could examples of achievements of this plan be provided, along with specific budget allocations? What were the plans of the Government to establish a comprehensive social service system for families and children in relation to this national plan? Was there a permanent body at the inter-ministerial level for monitoring the implementation of the Convention? What were the coordination bodies at the local level? Did the Government plan to establish a system for disaggregated data on children’s rights? Were there plans to increase funding for healthcare and education for children?

Ms. Todorova asked how the current climate mitigation policy of Greece was compatible with its obligation to protect the rights of children, particularly regarding health and food, both in Greece and abroad? What measures was Greece taking to ensure that its energy policy considered the impact of climate change on the rights of the child? It was understood that child marriage in Greece was still allowed by the law, as stated in the Civil Code. The marriage age was subject to the choice of parents, who sometimes opted for Sharia law. Was there information on the number of child marriages in Greece?

A Committee Expert said that discrimination against Roma children remained a concern. How many hate crimes against Roma children had been reported and punished? What was being done to combat racial discrimination? How were child victims supported and provided with remedies? What was the impact of the previous austerity measures on Roma children, children with disabilities, children living in poverty, and children in other vulnerable situations? What had happened to the work of the special secretariat for Roma inclusion after it was abolished in 2019?

The Expert asked for an update on child protection procedures. Were children regularly heard? Was special training provided to court staff? Were any surveys conducted about children in vulnerable situations such as Roma children? What were the views of the Government on the need for special measures to ensure equal participation?

Another Committee Expert raised the issue of birth registration for Roma children, asking about the current status of a project for registering Roma births, noting that many Roma children were registered without a first name or not at all. What efforts had been made to grant citizenship to stateless children and to those born to same sex couples? Did the State party intend to ratify the convention relating to statelessness? What measures were being taken to address the issue of child abandonment? It was noted that a special law focused on procedural safeguards for children who were suspects in criminal proceedings. What was the current status of this law? Did the centres of education for children operate in languages used by minorities? What measures were being taken to provide information in languages spoken by migrants and refugees?

One Committee Expert noted that Greece had established significant legislation on domestic violence, asking about the mechanisms on monitoring this legislation? Was Greece planning to adopt a national strategy to combat violence against children in all its forms? Were professionals obligated to report violence to the authorities, and what arose from such reporting? The Committee Expert noted that migrant children were often victims of gender-based violence, asking if any mechanisms had been set up in that regard? What support was given to victims? What was the data relating to the implementation of the law on domestic violence? It was noted that Children’s Houses had been set up. Could more details on the structure of those institutions be provided? What measures had been adopted to combat child marriage, particularly in Roma and Muslim communities? What measures had been taken to combat female genital mutilation among the migrant population?

The Committee Expert asked what was being done to ensure that the best interests of the child were considered in the instance of parental separation? How had mediation been used in the context of family separation? Did the State party plan to adopt a national strategy on the de-institutionalisation of children and promote the fact that children should be kept in a non-violent family environment? How were children placed in institutions informed of their rights? What had been set up for children who left an institution, for example unaccompanied migrants? What was being set up to ensure that the children of detainees could keep in touch with their families?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that the national action plan on the rights of the child, the first ever for Greece, was adopted in June 2021. The plan promoted the protection of the family and children in the community, among other priority areas, in line with recommendations provided for by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and other bodies. Last November, the Prime Minister presented an initiative for a new national action plan, which would be dedicated to the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

The new legal framework for the national school of judges included children’s rights. The seminars were compulsory, and information topics were part of the regular training for judges. In cooperation with the Ministry of Education, human rights materials, with an emphasis on the rights of the child, had been included in primary and secondary education. The newly revised family law focused on the best interests of the child. Family law cases were heard by judges who had successfully attended special training.

The delegation said that resources were annually transferred to childcare institutions to safeguard the provisions of social care services. In 2021, as an immediate response to the pandemic, the State budget was increased by 22 per cent. Greece would allocate a portion of its surplus resources to address child poverty, through a national programme and through regional programmes. Major reforms had taken place on child protection and needed some time to be fully implemented.

In 2021, the United Nations Children’s Fund had conducted a detailed policy analysis for children in Greece. The analysis looked to address barriers and unmet needs, with examples used by the Government to design the national action plan. Regarding databases on children, in 2018 a national registry for minors was established in all institutions. Through the system, long standing data issues had been tackled, and the information was now published on the website of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

A new bill on child protection had been adopted to ensure that every child was in a safe environment. A national system for registration had been established. Regarding professionals working with children, a criminal record was required to be submitted and the Ministry of Labour regularly conducted training programmes on new legislation. Social workers were empowered to supervise childcare institutions. The Ministry of Labour and a special labour inspectorate conducted regular investigations, looking at child labour. A control mechanism was in place with the Hellenic Police and the social security fund.

Regarding early marriages in the Roma community, the delegation said this was a complex issue relating to extreme poverty, among other factors. The new national strategy and action plan for Roma had specific measures to promote the employability of Roma people. Additional actions were being taken to improve Roma living conditions and therefore reduce early marriages. Joint seminars to address discrimination were held. All adoptions which had taken place had been done with a judicial decision, and the Ministry always assessed those who wished to find their family roots.

While religious education in Greece was a compulsory school subject, every student had a right to be exempt from religious education. The student’s parents were entitled to ask for their child’s doctrine to be recorded on special school documents. Every year, 300 youths were selected for youth parliament, based on mixed criteria, to include special education schools, cultural schools, and mixed schools abroad. In 2021, the Department of Education had provided the necessary know-how for the design of a legislative simulation workshop, which was attended by multiple Roma students. The Skills Labs programme was an opportunity which allowed children to develop life skills. The institute for education policy was preparing an action plan for the professional development of teachers, for preventing and managing all forms of violence. From pre-primary education, students developed hygiene skills and were taught to understand sexual dignity.

The protection of minors was emerging as one of the main priorities for the Hellenic Police, with the aim of preventing them from committing crimes, as well as being victimised. Minors in the context of criminal proceedings enjoyed increased protection. In cases of detention of a minor, a document of their rights was provided immediately, and they were allowed to keep it throughout the duration of their detention. Five additional specialised units of the Hellenic Police had been established, responsible for dealing with the abuse of minors. There were more than 70 domestic violence officers in 2021, as well as two specialised departments with 68 officers specialising in racial violence. The cybercrime unit of the Hellenic Police implemented the organization of safe navigation days and educational visits to schools, to combat cybercrime.

The delegation said that a national strategy had been developed for the protection of unaccompanied minors, which ensured protection from gender-based violence and trafficking, among other key goals. In 2020, the controversial measure of protective custody was abolished. Additional long-term accommodation facilities had been created, and a national emergency response mechanism had been set up as a priority. The response mechanism operated a 24-hour hotline, seven days a week, supported by trained professionals and interpreters. More than 2,000 children had been assisted, and the use of the mechanism was being expanded. Over 2,000 minors currently resided in child-friendly accommodation facilities. Given the priority of mental health, a pilot mental health hub project had been deployed, which supported the professionals working in the accommodation facilities for minors, providing counselling for them when necessary.

The delegation said there was no problem to provide the first name of Roma children. A provision was adopted in 2018, giving the opportunity for pregnant mothers to register new-born children in the hospital, without having the necessary identification documents. If there were mistakes on the birth certificate, it was the obligation of the registrar to correct them. The delegation said that there had been a decrease in the number of child marriages in the past few years, from over 180 down to less than 70.

Speaking on the ratification of the Optional Protocol of the Convention on individual communications, the delegation said that Greece was following the views of the Committee closely and was aware of their impact. The issue would remain under review and internal discussions would continue.

Questions by Committee Experts

VELINA TODOROVA, Vice Chair of the Committee and Coordinator of the Task Force for Greece, asked if there was a systemic policy for children with disabilities in Greece? Greece had adopted the first national action plan for persons with disabilities. How did this plan address the human rights of children with disabilities? Ms. Todorova drew attention to the joint statement by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, launched in March 2022. Was there a policy to assess the needs of families of children with disabilities? What was the institutional affiliation of social services? Who was monitoring and setting standards for social services? What were the current plans of the Government to address issues such as unmet demand for dental care for children, particularly children from disadvantaged groups, and mental health services and their uneven distribution?

On the issue of mandatory vaccination for children, it was noted that it was possible for unvaccinated children to be enrolled in schools, if their parents’ objected to vaccines. However, child vaccination was a key public health policy and was in the best interest of children. Ms. Todorova recommended this judgement to the Greek authorities. She noted that one third of the child population in Greece lived in poverty, and childcare enrolment rates were among the lowest in the European Union. What were the measures to address the low rates of enrolment in nurseries and kindergartens? Could the principles of the housing policy be explained?

A Committee Expert said there remained a gap in school enrolment for Roma children. Were there any plans for comprehensive, disaggregated data collection in this area? What had happened to the pilot programmes of pre-school education for the Muslim minority? Were there enough minority schools to ensure access to all children belonging to the Muslim minority, particularly in rural areas? It was noted that school transportation in Greece was an issue. Were all children provided with school transportation? Were natural disaster risks considered in school planning in Greece?

Could more information be provided on pre-school education? The Committee was interested to know if all children had access to pre-school education, including Roma children, the Muslim community, and children with disabilities. How was the continuation of education ensured during COVID-19?

Another Committee Expert welcomed the efforts taken to enhance the conditions for migrant children. Were migrant and refugee children vaccinated against COVID-19? It was noted that there were reports indicating that deficiencies in the public health system negatively affected children on the move, while access to mental health systems were limited. The Committee Expert was concerned about the forced push back of migrant children and their families. Could the delegation explain the current situation and whether the Government was taking measures to stop the system of push backs, and what were the results? Reports had been received stating that just 14 per cent of children in camps were enrolled in schools. All services offered to Ukrainian children were acknowledged, however, the Committee hoped that all refugees had access to the same rights without discrimination. What was the situation in this regard?

It was noted that females under the age of 18 were being held with adult women in detention. What were the reasons for this? Were efforts being made to upgrade detention centres for children? Several measures had been planned regarding Roma children, including training police staff, and awareness raising campaigns in the media. Could the delegation elaborate on the status of these plans and their impacts on Roma communities? The Committee was concerned that many of the victims of trafficking were migrant children, or those in a street situation. What measures were being taken to identify victims of trafficking, for example at border crossings? Could the State party inform about measures being taken to include victims of all offenses under the Optional Protocols?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that Greece had made efforts to combat issues regarding legislation on the rights of children. The main national action plans covered areas such as the rights of the child, racial intolerance, persons with disabilities, and gender equality, among other topics. These bodies provided advice and opinions, and members were nominated based on their expertise in various areas. At the end of the year, the consolidated government plan for the following year, which incorporated the action plans of all ministries, and all action plans was presented.

The Penal Code provided for the crime of child pornography and child prostitution. The Ministry of Justice action plan would develop protocols and guides concerning juvenile offenders and juvenile victims. The House of the Child supported minor victims and their families. The House of the Child had been fully operational since December 2020.

Regarding the recent conflict in Ukraine, Greece was responding to its obligations as a Member State and complying with all relevant human rights standards. Under challenging conditions, Greece had established a reception system for refugees, which included health and social support. There were six reception and identification centres established on the island. Accommodation apartments leased by non-governmental organizations were available to house refugees. There were three interim guardian schemes which had taken place in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Minors were represented in all necessary procedures. A new draft law had been developed to establish a solid national guardian system.

Regarding homeless and unaccompanied minors, there were a number of long-term accommodation places and all unaccompanied minors in Greece could be placed in houses, or in supervised apartments if they were over the age of 16, and would receive a wide array of child protection services. One hundred and eighty emergency accommodation centres had been established. The national emergency response mechanism had been activated to provide immediate support. After receiving information about minors lacking shelter, these minors had been promptly registered by competent Greek authorities and received medical and psychological support and placed in accommodation.

The delegation said the Penal Code condemned human trafficking. A crucial step in the fight against trafficking was the establishment of the national referral mechanism. One of the most important achievements of this framework was the collaboration of State services and civil society, which provided support to victims of trafficking alongside public services. A series of extensive training, which targeted personnel working in identification centres, had been undertaken to assist with the reporting of unaccompanied minors who were presumed to be trafficking victims. The delegation said the police worked in full cooperation with the Greek Ombudsman, which guaranteed the independence of the operations at the border. Saving lives at sea had always been a priority for Greece and the Hellenic Coast Guard had saved thousands of lives since its establishment.

Legislation protected the right of uninsured children to access the public health system. The Ministry of Health had taken measures for the protection of children during the pandemic. An important intervention which contributed to the management of children’s health was the children’s health card and booklet. A new law had established the vaccination register for children, ensuring the implementation of the national vaccination programme for all children.

Concerning policies against malnutrition, measures had been taken, including the development of an institutional framework which encompassed baby friendly hospitals. The promote healthy eating in childhood booklet was a guideline for lactating mothers that had been established. From 2017, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Education had been raising awareness at the national level about the health of the student population. In Greece, there were 55 mental health structures for children, with 36 new structures planned to be built over next few years.

The delegation said that funding was allocated to cover the transportation of pupils to school. There were 103 minority primary schools with over 3,000 students. Minority students were given the choice to be enrolled in minority schools or in public schools. Sex education was addressed through the compulsory Skills Lab course and was not a separate subject. Measures had been taken to safeguard the right of Roma children to education.

Roma students were required to be enrolled in schools, regardless of whether or not they were formally registered with municipal authorities. Students were offered intensive language courses and support through an additional teacher in the classroom, or with extra lessons. A project called “inclusive schools for Roma” aimed to implement the successful integration of Roma students in schools. It would be implemented in 20 selected schools in Greece, involving around 200 teachers. The role of the Romani language was another project, which aimed at familiarising the education community with inter-cultural education.

Additional measures for refugee children included the training of refugee education coordinators. Good practices and educational tools on learning Greek as a second language had been disseminated throughout the educational community. The welfare centre of western Greece had been subsidised with over 9 million euros from the State budget to develop houses to host persons with disabilities; 24 persons with disabilities would move to the houses with the support of personnel. Within the next few weeks, the procedures would be completed to allow the houses to open in the summer, with the next goal being to shut down institutions.

The delegation said that almost 31 per cent of children in Greece lived in low-income households in 2020, however this number had decreased. Measures to combat this included policies for those with extreme or minimum incomes, and child specific programmes. A housing benefit for the homeless had been implemented, which provided subsidies and housing for homeless families. The State had undertaken several measures to address the low rate of children in nurseries, including a programme which aimed to educate children at nursery age. The delegation said that there were projects aimed at promoting work-life balance, including where the beneficiaries would receive financial support in the form of a voucher, for their role as a caregiver.

Greece’s national legislation regulated the protection of minors and the prevention of their participation in war and conflicts, particularly focusing on the recruitment of children under the age of 15. Through its mandatory military service, Greece had a reserve system where adults could be called to active service in an emergency.

The delegation said that in 2020, the Greek Government had delivered the national action plan for the rights of persons with disabilities, which was the outcome of one year of discussions with civil society. It reflected the human rights-based approach, following the country’s review process by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2013. The abundance of primary and secondary legislation on the rights of persons with disabilities had been digitised in 2021 and was accessible to all. It was comprised of legislation on the support of children with disabilities, as well as their families. A large-scale data collection was being implemented, in regard to the built environment, which would result in the adjustments of health care facilities, schools and other services. There were two concrete goals within the national action plan which focused on children with disabilities, and women and girls with disabilities.

Questions by Committee Experts

VELINA TODOROVA, Vice Chair of the Committee and Coordinator of the Task Force for Greece, said that Greece had misunderstood the purpose of the dialogue. Greece was supposed to help the Committee understand the situation in order to issue good concluding observations on the implementation of the Convention in the country. It was understood that Greece did not want to establish a central body to coordinate activities. There was no real coordination; was she right? Could a civil judge approve a request of marriage of two Greek nationals, for example a girl at the age of 15 and a boy of 17? Regarding the child protection system, it was understood that it was the decision of parents to leave their children in alterative care. There was no data provided regarding the number of children in foster care, among others. Which authority made the decision on the best care for the child? Regarding the register for children and foster care, how did children enter this register? Who decided if children could be adopted or went to foster care?

A Committee Expert noted that each question was not addressed in a precise, clear term. The Committee was fully aware of the laws which existed in Greece, however, all of them did not directly address the crimes in the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Could the delegation go back to the Optional Protocol and answer the precise questions, regarding the criminalisation of the recruitment of children under 18, among other questions.

One Committee Expert also requested Greece to provide more specific answers, saying the information provided was quite vague. How were the rights of children deprived of liberty communicated to these children? What type of communication form was in place? Was it adapted to the children and worked on with them? Regarding children who were victims of violence, there were officers who responded to domestic violence cases. Could further information be provided on this? What were the main consequences of family violence? Could less radical measures be adopted? What were the campaigns undertaken to combat domestic violence? What approach had been adopted to deal with children begging in the street? What measures were taken against parents who pushed their children into begging ?

A Committee Expert asked about corporal punishment. What was the scope of the protection of children vis a vis corporal punishment? Was this only limited to the family environment? Did the protection encompass other areas, such as alternative care settings, creches or schools?

Another Committee Expert said there was a problem for minorities who did not have access to the civil registry to register their children. It was understood that this group did not have access to health care and would legally have to prove that they were residing in the country. There had also been problems when it came to screening pregnant women for AIDS. What issues had been taken to combat mother to child transmission?

One Committee Expert said it was important for States to think about what steps they could take to build access to justice pathways from the ground. What had been done to build those pathways to allow children to bring cases at the country level?

A Committee Expert noted concerns around education, asking about the freedom to enrol in minority schools. What about the equivalence of diplomas? Were these consistent across mainstream and minority schools? What did it mean that the sexual education programme was introduced separately?

Another Committee Expert asked about Children’s Houses, noting that there was one facility called a Children’s House based in Athens, which only acted as a facility for children to give statements to the court. This was not in line with the European Court of Human Rights, regarding child sensitive measures in the justice system. It was understood that children in Greece were repetitively interviewed in different locations, by different parties. Could this be clarified?

A Committee Expert asked about minority issues, noting many questions still had not received answers. All these children living in Greece should have equal access to education. What was the delegation’s position on all the children in all minority groups, to access education?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation confirmed that the area of the rights of the child was highly horizontal and was a cross-cutting concern. Even laws which seemed unrelated to these issues were immediately urgent to the rights of the child. Codification was a goal of the national action plan, and without it, there was no chance of achieving what was needed. The discussion on coordination was welcomed, with the delegation saying that there were several mechanisms in place acting as umbrella bodies.

Regarding coordination of the policies, the delegation said that the national mechanism was the main mechanism for the coordination between the relevant ministries and the national commission for human rights. Regarding coordination at the Government level, at the end of the year, a consolidated government policy plan was presented to the ministers. The Houses of the Child were fully operational and functioning, providing social support to the victims and their families. All the relevant crimes described in the Optional Protocol were punished by the Greek Penal Code.

The delegation said that regarding child marriage, the intended spouses would need to appear before the court. Sex education reached children through health education programmes and the Skills Lab, which was compulsory. Wellbeing was a thematic pillar within this course, which allowed programmes to be developed on sex education. The minority school curriculum was bilingual, and 55 per cent of the timetable was devoted to the minority programme. The marriage of two children below the age of 15 was not valid.

Every child who entered an institution in Greece had to be registered by social services into the system, within 24 hours of their arrival to the institution. Social services took into account the needs of the child to determine the best solution; for example, if it was best for them to return to their biological family or remain in the foster institution. The Ministry of Labour made regular checks and controls, in collaboration with regional authorities to institutions.

The delegation acknowledged the operational problem regarding health insurance with migrant children and would try to establish a new procedure to help these children. Hospital care was provided free to these children. The delegation said the only clarification it offered regarding the recruitment of minors under the age of 15 was that minors were not recruited for the purposes of hostility. In the case of mobilisation, Greece recruited men aged 18 to 45.

There was no generally accepted definition of a minority, and Greece recognised the religious Muslim minority. The Greek State had adopted several beneficial measures for this minority group. The members of groups that were not recognised as minorities fully enjoyed the rights under the human rights treaties, but did not enjoy specific minority rights.

The delegation said that domestic violence officers of the Hellenic Police were responsible for handling domestic violence cases and exerting their rights in cases of re-victimisation. The officers were equipped to function and provide a sense of security for the victims. Care was taken to equip the offices with toys for creative work and for other activities, such as painting. These officers received specialised training. The delegation said that all personnel had the obligation to inform minors on their rights when detained. Boys and girls were always held in separate facilities.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert asked about the situation of push backs, stating that Greece had specified that there was no evidence of this. However, information had been received regarding the fact that a report had been drawn up, which detailed that a significant number of push back events had been identified, leading to the resignation of the director of the agency. Was Greece planning on opening new and comprehensive enquiries into these serious allegations, which also included children?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that Greece was aware of the OLAF report of the European Anti-Fraud Office and its impact. All necessary actions, as foreseen in European Union legislation, were implemented and conducted with third party nationals, including minors. The Greek Ombudsman and other mechanisms were considered enough to ensure that all allegations were examined, and punishments would be provided if necessary.

Closing Statements

VELINA TODOROVA, Vice Chair of the Committee and Coordinator of the Task Force for Greece , said that her impression was that the meeting time was not used properly. An exchange of information was necessary. The dialogue had been abstract until 15 minutes ago when the delegation gave the Committee figures about institutions in Greece. The task of the Committee was not to review the legislation of Greece but to see how the Convention and the Government’s actions changed the lives of children in the country. Ms. Todorova doubted that this was achieved. Ms. Todorova thanked the delegation and hoped the concluding observations would be of assistance.

PANOS ALEXANDRIS, Secretary General for Justice and Human Rights, Chair of the National Mechanism for the Elaboration, Monitoring and Evaluation of Action Plans on the Rights of the Child, Ministry of Justice of Greece , thanked the Committee for their constructive questions, saying it had been an enriching experience. All concluding observations would be examined, which would guide the work of Greece moving forward. The country was putting significant efforts towards children’s rights, and the Committee’s recommendations would be thoroughly discussed and disseminated.

MIKIKO OTANI, Committee Chair, said the dialogue had been challenging given the four-hour time frame. The Committee would try its best to make concrete and useful recommendations for the delegation of Greece. Ms. Otani thanked the delegation and extended best wishes on behalf of the Committee to all the children in Greece.

 

 

CRC22.007E