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Street Work in Athens Helps Meet the Needs of Unaccompanied Refugee Children

“I was scared. If you hadn’t found me, I wouldn’t know where to go,” said one of the refugee children supported by the nonprofit organization Faros.

As of April 2021, there were roughly 3,800 unaccompanied refugee children living in Greece, nearly a quarter of whom faced housing insecurity. The pandemic has further complicated the situation for these vulnerable children, as public health restrictions made it more difficult for them to access the Greek Asylum Service and increased their fear of being fined or detained on the street for not having proper identification.

Faros seeks out these unaccompanied refugee children where they’re staying to help them meet immediate needs and work towards long-term solutions. The organization goes out three times a week to areas of Athens including Omonia Square, Pedion tou Areos, and Agios Panteleimonas, distributing hygiene essentials like masks and sanitizer and building relationships.

While conducting street work, for instance, the Faros team connected with a 14-year-old Kurdish boy from Syria who had attempted to travel on foot to Germany to meet relatives there, but had had to turn back. He was now in Athens with no money and no papers, and wasn’t aware of his right to apply for asylum and family reunification in Greece. The Faros team was able to help him learn about his rights and offer him a safe place to stay in its shelter while he sought to be united with his family.

Faros also offers individual psychosocial support sessions, accompanies minors to the hospital for medical appointments, facilitates shelter placements, and provides hot meals, showers, and clean clothes at its Drop-In Center. In early 2021, between February and April, Faros served 47 unaccompanied refugee children, escorted children to the hospital for medical appointments 52 times, and helped place 28 children in shelters.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) has provided support to Faros both as part of its recently completed $100 million global COVID-19 relief initiative and as part of its past efforts to combat the effects of Greece’s deep socioeconomic crisis.