Greek asylum official blames EU tensions for migrant family separations

Greece, a country of 11 million people, recorded 58,661 asylum applications last year, making it the member state with the highest number of asylum seekers per capita, according to official data

A top Greek asylum official blamed tensions over the EU's migrant policy on Thursday for separating young migrants from their parents in other European countries, as an NGO revealed around 2,500 unaccompanied migrant children in Greece are in a "perilous" situation.

Dionysia Papailiou, a departmental head at the National Asylum Office, said nearly 500 of 680 juvenile refugees and migrants considered eligible for family reunification have been opposed by the presumed "host countries" since the start of 2018.

"For a year, we have more and more rejections, even though previously requests made on the same criteria were accepted," she said.

EU member states have been arguing about how best to deal with migrant and refugee arrivals, with Italy and other countries taking anti-migrant positions despite a significant reduction in the numbers illegally entering Europe.

Papailiou said European tensions over how to deal with migrants was making it harder to reunite refugee children with their families -- despite being deemed eligible by the asylum service.

NGO Metadrasi warned Thursday that many unaccompanied migrant children, around 2,500 in Greece, were not in accommodation and some are forced to sleep rough.

"According to data from the National Center for Social Solidarity (EKKA), 3,670 unaccompanied minors are currently in the country of which only 1,135 are in homes or with families, the rest are in perilous conditions," said Evdokia Gryllaki, head of management of unaccompanied minors at Metadrasi.

The largest proportion of unprotected minors were Pakistanis, 38.4 percent, who "do not have the usual profile of a refugee... as is the case for example with Syrians," Gryllaki said at a conference in Athens on the issue.

"Only 66 percent are in school," she added, calling for bodies to work together to help integrate the children into society.

EKKA, which is responsible for taking unaccompanied children from Greek islands to shelters on the mainland, said 28 accommodation facilities currently exist for unaccompanied minors in Greece -- with a capacity of 1,115 places, less than half the amount needed.

NGO's have repeatedly warned that without the care and protection of an adult then child refugees and migrants are at extreme risk of abuse, trafficking or exploitation.

Since 2015, Metadrasi, which works for the rights of migrants and refugees, has rescued 4,133 minors including 3,633 young men, mostly Afghans, Syrians and Pakistanis.