By the Social & Legal Service of the Athens Solidarity Center*
We met R.M. at the Athens Solidarity Centre in February 2020. R.M. is a 9-year-old child of Kurdish nationality, who came in Greece from the suffering area of Afrin, in north Syria. His father had died a few months earlier. To save him from the war and protect him, his mother took the hard decision to send him all alone abroad, having Germany as his final destination, where his two older brothers live.
R.M. arrived as an unaccompanied minor in our country where a Kurdish family, living in Athens, took care of him, as his mother had arranged. This family brought the minor to our Center and immediately our social and legal services worked together so as to adequately address the child’s needs, regarding housing and assistance with the family reunification request. We had to deal with a particularly vulnerable case: a very young child, frightened, in need of a safe and stable protective environment.
We immediately applied to the asylum service for the registration of the child, so as to obtain legal documents as an international protection applicant and to start the process of the family reunification with his siblings in Germany. In March 2020, the request for international protection of the minor was registered by the asylum service and at the same time the application to be reunited with his siblings in Germany was submitted.
At the same time, given his young age and the inadequate and time-consuming formal system of housing for the unaccompanied minors, we co-operated with the Kurdish family, which seemed positive to assist the child and we decided that the most beneficial option for the minor was to continue being accommodated by them. In order to put the child legally under the care of the Kurdish family, we had to obtain permission by the Juvenile Prosecutor. Thus, we submitted the relevant application, accompanied by a social report, to the Juvenile Prosecutor asking him to assign the temporary care of the minor to this family. Despite the fact that such applications have a low success rate and that all actions took place during the first quarantine period, the Juvenile Prosecutor, examined thoroughly the case and accepted our request. We then collected, translated, and submitted all the necessary documents proving the existence of family ties for family reunification purposes, while compiling the necessary form for the best interest assessment of the minor (BIA). The outgoing request was sent and within a short time we received acceptance from Germany. In the meantime, we kept informing the Juvenile Prosecutor and the brothers of R.M. for the news on the case, having regular contact with them.
The day we were informed about Germany’s acceptance of the case, amid the lockdown period, we were overwhelmed with feelings of joy, optimism, and vindication. When we announced the good news to R.M., we saw his face smiling, even behind the mask and we remained silent for a while to let him realize that his dream of seeing his brothers again, would come true.
We, then, made efforts to speed up his transportation to Germany, in contact with the competent Service, but due to the emergency measures taken for the protection of the public health regarding the flights abroad, it was not possible. During lockdown period, often the 6 months deadline for the transfer to other country is not kept. However, with consistent efforts, we managed to schedule the minor’s flight within the deadline and organized the procedures for his trip. Due to the very young age of the child, it was necessary to be accompanied by an adult. So, we arranged for him to be escorted by his older brother who came to Greece for this purpose.
Till the day he left, we were in frequent contact with the child and the host family, we watched the progress of his daily life, we tried to empower him in the moments that he was feeling tired or disappointed and we tried to keep his hope alive.
Farewell to R.M. took place on the eve of his departure, during December 2020, at our Center, with gifts, treats and warm smiles. We wish him the best for his life in Germany and good luck on the examination of his application for international protection there.
* Since May 2019, the Athens Solidarity Center is financed by EEA and Norway Grants, with HumanRights360 and CROWE Greece as the fund operator. The Center is also supported by the Municipality of Athens.