PRESS RELEASE: SolidarityNow at the Athens Democracy Forum: “Migrant Children’s Transition to Adulthood”

Copyright Myroslava Klius for SolidarityNow On the left: Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University & President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, On the right: Stelios Zavvos, Chairman of the BoD SolidarityNow

Breakfast briefing titled: “Migrant Children’s Transition to Adulthood”

SolidarityNow organized today, within the framework of the annual Athens Democracy Forum, a discussion on the topic of unaccompanied children becoming 18 years old in Greece and the challenges they face deprived of any previous supporting framework.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of SolidarityNow, Mr. Stelios Zavvos welcomed the participants stating: “It is important to strengthen democracy, especially in today’s geopolitical situation, with the continuous crises including the climate one, notably in a Europe plagued by populism and the aging of population. We speak for and experience democracy when we take care of everyone, let alone young people, the most active part of the population, which with its dynamic and diversity can push all sectors of our society forward”.

Afterwards, the Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors, Mr. Heraclus Moskoff, spoke about the work of the Special Secretariat and its impact on the lives of unaccompanied children living in the country, recognizing the importance of substantial support for unaccompanied children coming of age. “To date, the Secretariat has supported the relocation of 1,271 children in 13 European countries. The main priority of the SSPUAM is the integration of the children who remain in our country, offering them opportunities for education and employment”.

The Head of the Unit for Integration and Support of UAMs of the Special Secretariat, Ms. Gelly Aroni, emphasized on the importance of education, the exchange of good practices, and the participation of the children themselves in the decisions that concern them while underlining that: “Today, we are working on integration practices of the children but essentially what we need to do is to draw up a policy”.

The discussion was honored by the presence of the internationally renowned economist, academic and political analyst, Jeffrey Sachs. In his presentation, Mr. Sachs referred to the global challenges and their consequences on migration, to the imperative need to plan policies, while criticizing the West and especially his birthplace and global superpower America, for its stance on current geopolitical issues with reference to the war in Syria and Russia from 2008 onwards.

In addition, the academic Ms. Jennifer Cavounidis, a member of the Board of SolidarityNow, emphasized the importance of education for integration, stating that: “24% of students attending Greek schools are first or second-generation migrants. We need to support them for their well-being and development, but also for the society”. Marilyn Polena, General Manager of SolidarityNow, summarized the work of the organization for unaccompanied children and the need for further support, especially in the first years of adulthood, with the aim not allowing marginalization to be an option for any child.

The conclusions from the discussion highlighted the gap that arises in the care of unaccompanied children once they turn 18 and the need for further initiatives. It was particularly pointed out that investing in the future needs to be done on children’s potential and not on their vulnerability. The aim is to bring out the children’s talents, through the provision of opportunities for education and skill development, to create a two-way benefit relationship- both for the young people and the society in their new country.

In the context of the meeting, a short video-testimony of an 18-year-old from Gambia was presented, through which the difficulties, anxiety, and impasse experienced by children when they turn 18 were expressed. The issue of the transition of unaccompanied children to adulthood is also addressed by a short film entitled “I Woke Up 18” directed by Vera-Iona Papadopoulou and produced by SolidarityNow which will be shown for the first time tomorrow September 30th at 17:00 at the Danaos cinema, as part of the Athens International Film Festival.