Greece is a country located in southeastern Europe, consisting of the mainland and approximatively 1,200 islands. Around ten million people live in this country, which is considered the birthplace of western civilization. Athens is the largest city and capital, followed by Thessaloniki and Patras. Greece is part of the European Union, and aims for a sustainable economical and societal growth. The country, however, has been shaken by several crises in the past years. In addition, the refugee situation has presented Greece with major humanitarian challenges for several years.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Greece since 1975.
For many refugees coming from Asia and the Middle East, Greece is the first country they enter in Europe. There are an estimated 121,100 refugees in Greece, 44,500 of whom are children. In total, 4,000 children are unaccompanied.
Not only do they lack basic needs such as shelter and food, but they are also more vulnerable to gender and sexual violence, exploitation and trafficking. Although the Greek government has made efforts to include refugee children in the school system, 60% of refugee children of school age are still lacking access to education.
Child trafficking is a huge problem in Greece. The country is both a final destination and transit country for child trafficking from Eastern Europe and former Soviet countries. This could be due to Greece's geographical location, which is an entry point into the European Union. Or it could be due to the ineffective prevention and prosecution measures of the Greek judicial system. Criminal organisations traffick an estimated 40,000 victims annually for forced labour and sex trafficking..
Greece has gone through several crises in recent years that have brought many families to the brink of poverty. In fact, 30% of the population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Among young people, 568,000 children are affected. The high level of poverty could be linked to the unemployment prevailing in Greece. The country has one of the highest unemployment rates in the European Union, at around 13%. Among 15-29 year olds, it is as high as 29.8%. Poverty and unemployment are mutually dependent, a vicious circle from which it is difficult to escape.