Monday, February 06, 2006

MISSING CHILDREN

500 children went missing from the Aghia Varvara institution between 1998 and 2002. Only 4 of the children have since been located. Where are the other 496? No-one knows. Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Juan Miguel Petit visited the country in November 2005 and reported specifically on this case and made recommendations to the Greek government. During the visit, I looked for information on the case of the approximately 500 children who went missing from the children’s institution Aghia Varvara between 1998 and 2002. I share the conclusion of the report of the Ombudsman on the case, which indicated the overall deficiencies of the institution Aghia Varvara to adequately respond to the challenging objective of the government programme set up at the time and aimed at giving protection and social care to street children. I saw the records in which children coming and going from Aghia Varvara were registered. All the elements I gathered indicate a deficiency in the design of the educational and social methodology of the programme. During my visit in Albania, the Albanian Ombudsman informed me that only 4 of the missing children from Aghia Varvara have been located in Albania. We do not know where the others are. As a preliminary suggestion, I recommend to consider the possibility of creating a mixed commission of relevant Greek and Albanian authorities, the Ombudsmen of both countries and NGOs which have worked on the case. The commission should coordinate the efforts to locate the children whose whereabouts remain unknown and identify institutional responsibilities. My perspective on this case is on the lessons that we should draw from it to prevent its recurrence in the future. For this, a more efficient and cooperative relationship between the Government and NGOs is needed to make children a recognised priority for the country beyond political, institutional and ideological disputes. He also commented on other issues: There is still need to improve the coverage of social programmes with specialised staff with specific expertise to work with foreign unaccompanied minors, street children, and victims of trafficking.The protection of unaccompanied minors is to be improved. Although the Government is making efforts in this direction, in practice unaccompanied children are too often treated as adult illegal migrants. This is particularly concerning for more vulnerable categories of unaccompanied minors, such as victims of trafficking and asylum seekers, who may end up being deported without having had the possibility to access the protection measures they are entitled to. The situation of Roma and Roma children is a concern. I visited a Roma settlement in which housing conditions and sanitation are just not acceptable. Access to health and education is limited or lacking and social programmes are not providing assistance to the community. The State should take specific measures to improve the living conditions and the possibilities of development of Roma communities to give to Roma children alternatives other than street work or prostitution as survival strategies for them and their families. My last consideration relates to the lack of an overarching institutional set up for child protection. Institutional responsibilities are spread among different ministries without a coordinating entity. Such a coordinating body is very much needed to improve the institutional capacity to respond to the problems I referred to, together with specific measures such as specialised educators and social workers, outreach programmes, community centres, and resourced shelters. The cooperation of NGOs in the implementation of these measures, which are to be framed in an overarching policy on children’s rights and child protection, is an indispensable asset. We can only imagine what has become of all those children. I cannot believe that so many could have been 'lost' and that so little effort had been made to find them. And yes, I'm going to critisise Greece about this too. If it had been 500 Greek children from an orphanage or other such institution, would it have gone unchecked? This story makes me despair for our humanity. Whatever your views of foreigners and immigrants and asylum seekers and roma and whoever else you have problems with: These are children we are talking about. 496 children. 496 children that Greece had the responsibility to protect (regardless of why and how they were here). And Greece failed them. For a country that prides itself on loving children (I assume now that that means Greek children) This is a disgrace. What is going to be done. My guess is absolutely nothing. UPDATE Here are two links to this story. Just to clarify, Aghia Varvara was a state-run institution where children were housed after being picked up by police from the streets. The Amnesty report cites 502 children missing and both articles state that little or no effort has been made to find them (in fact it was not even reported until 2003) Copy of the letter to the Greek government from the World Organisation against Torture (2004) The missing children also appear in the annual report on Greece from Amnesty International 2005

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At 2/07/2006 01:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

=== ZARDOZ SAYS:

mS D,D, questions ?

1-you are talking about trafficked chidren who we would meet on the street at cross sections, that would wash our car wind sheilds ..?


2-which all disappeared before and up to the olympic games..?


2a- and now have been replaced in majority by pakistani population washing our windsheilds..?

3_the comings and goings of the children you say CAME into AG. VARVARA, and then the goings ?
were did the state take
the children..?

4- the goings were all to be taken to albania..?
are you very sure ms DD..?

OF COURSE IM SHOCKED BUT SOMETHIN DOESNT TIE DOWN...
THIS is the first time i have heard
the wereabouts of these children,,

ZARDOZ

 
At 2/07/2006 09:20:00 AM, Blogger deviousdiva said...

To answer your questions as much as I can.
1 - Ag. Varara is a government programme set up at the time and aimed at giving protection and social care to street children. The children were registered as unaccompanied minors. I would hope these were children who were being looked after so that they were NOT ending up at the traffic lights washing car windscreens.

2 - The "clean-up" before the Olympic games (and now in Patras for the European City of Culture) is a different issue. These children went missing between 1998 and 2002.

3 - The goings I am not sure. I assume from what Juan Miguel Petit wrote in his report that the goings were pretty unmonitored leaving these children vulnerable to being taken away, trafficked and goodness knows what else.

4 - No where do I say these children were taken to Albania. Only that the four that were found where located there according to the report.

I hope that clarifies some issues for you. You say "somethin doesnt tie down". Do you believe that this is not true? That the records of these children have been made up? For what reason? To be honest with you I think even one missing child is too many, let alone 496 in four years. This is gross incompetence and failure of a programme set up to protect vulnerable children.

 
At 2/07/2006 11:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

zardoz says:
as i said its the fisrt time ive heard
about this. The media in general
nothing has been mentioned before.

could you describe the full name of the ag, varvara institution?
id like to look this situation up.?

------------z

 
At 2/07/2006 01:31:00 PM, Blogger deviousdiva said...

Apologies zardoz for my abruptness, but this story really got to me badly. Something that involves so many children that should have been protected by the state... I don't know what to do. Sometimes looking at all this stuff puts a bend in you. Anyway I have updated the post with the links to Amnesty information and an appeal from the World Organisation against Torture.

 
At 2/07/2006 02:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have heard that the Russian Mafia now controls the traffic lights. This is why you never see more than one person washing windows. The Russian mob knows a bit about business, as the new window washers are very polite and do not cause havoc like the former gypsy kids. I cannot count the number of times I had to chase those bratty little gypsy kids away from my car telling them "NO" I do not want my window washed. However, a simple, polite "Oxi" to the Pakistanis and they are on their way to the next window.

 
At 2/07/2006 04:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

zardoz says :

No apologies needed ,
our world is difficult enough
each of us trying to help in his own way
and finding walls
each of us giving our trust and having it stepped on
think nuthin of it ,
i dont know what to do either
have some people in media and guv positions
i'd like to ask them though,

=== zardoz ===

 
At 2/07/2006 10:06:00 PM, Blogger scarfalonius said...

The Greek ombudsman's office published a report on this in March, 2004.
http://www.synigoros.gr/reports/ag_varvara.pdf

It's pretty damning. The charges about the missing children were first brought by an NGO called Terre des Hommes, and were reported by the British newspaper The Independent a few months later.

Evidently, Agia Varvara was a program set up with EU funding to get all the street children off the streets. A building in central Athens was made available as a sort of orphanage.

It looks to me like the Athens police simply rounded up as many of these kids as they could find and dumped them in Agia Varvara. The ombudsman's report uses pretty strong language in describing the chaos of the place - inadequate facilities, lack of administration, no security etc.

There's something peculiar in the charges listed by Terre des Hommes, and I'll nose around some more on this one. It says

'...πολλά απο τα παιδιά αυτά είχαν επανακτηθεί από δουλεμπόρους, που πλήρωναν μέχρι και το ποσό 500 Ευρώ για να αποσπάσουν τα παιδιά απο το ίδρυμα με σκοπό την οικονομική εκμετάλλευση, τη χρήση τους στην πορνεία ή την πώληση οργάνων τους.'

'...many of the children were extracted from traffickers, who paid up to 500 euros to get the kids out of the institution for the purpose of economic expoitation - prostitution or the sale of their organs.'

Wow. What I find curious is that the passage is vague about WHO got the money. It doesn't really suggest the people at Agia Varvara sold the kids, but...what is it suggesting?

I'd bet it's a bit mixed up - the traffickers paid the parents in Albania to rent the children, bring them to Athens and beg, probably some prostitution went on as well. Organ theft sounds a bit much. Then when the kids got sent to Agia Varvara, they just walked out.

 
At 2/07/2006 10:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

zardoz says :

hello scarfalonius,

i have a personal interest in this story,

are there any addresses and or info

i can visit to accumulate opinion

can also take alook down

thank you
=== zardoz===

 
At 2/07/2006 11:47:00 PM, Blogger scarfalonius said...

Hi zardoz -

These are all in Greek -


http://ta-nea.dolnet.gr/print_article.php?e=A&f=17522&m=N19&aa=1

http://www.hri.org/E/2001/01-01-27.dir/keimena/greece/greece3.htm

http://www.anthropos.gr/show_news.asp?Id=7142

http://www.epohi.gr/yre_diary_issues_2962003.htm

http://www.amnesty.org.gr/library/report2005/greece.htm


These are in English -

http://www.dream.net.gr/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1734

http://www.unhchr.ch/huricane/huricane.nsf/0/0AC5E76ECD6E126BC12570BA0030ABF6?opendocument

http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/0/ad9b0339463e6b10c1256f78003c1a78?Opendocument

http://www2.unog.ch/news2/documents/newsen/cat04034e.htm

http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/hrcommittee/greece2005.html

http://www.diversity-online.org/ps1.asp?ItemID=748


Sorry, I don't know anything about inserting proper links. Diva? Where's the tutorial? In the meantime, copy/paste.

As diva pointed out, this particular case isn't about left or right - though there's a notable ABSENCE of conservative sites that covered this story. It's about children.

It doesn't take much imagination to figure out what happened. Somebody in the Greek government thought it'd be a good idea to make it seem like Greece was tackling the issue of street children. They pushed through the program, it got approved, a bunch of mediocrities were hired to oversee a program with a minimum of funding. Somebody yelled at somebody, the funding dried up, and poof.

Will somebody go to jail? No.

Most street kids are gone, anyway. The Whatever Mafia has taken over that racket. Private enterprise wins again.

 
At 2/07/2006 11:59:00 PM, Blogger scarfalonius said...

The links may not look complete, but if you highlight the line it's all there.

A last anecdote - a friend of mine once told me a story about these clubs in Athens, there are several, where naked kids dance on the bars and can be had for a fee. Blonde kids fetch a premium.

These places are obviously hush hush. But somehow I don't think it would require too much effort to find them.

Anybody want to do that?

 
At 2/08/2006 12:29:00 AM, Blogger deviousdiva said...

What can I say? This is just so outrageous. I'd just like to know what is going to be done and is anyone going to be held accountable? I guess it's too late to find those children.


(For clickable links, scarfalonius)

 

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