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Activity 18+: Supporting the future of former unaccompanied children

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Activity 18+: Supporting the future of former unaccompanied children

We see unaccompanied children turning 18 and the question is “What happens next?” You cannot just tell a child overnight: Now you are an adult, go look for a job, look for a home of your own…

Moved by the struggles of these children, we undertook a pilot initiative, which was supported by donors and foundations, a pilot effort to support these youths to stand on their feet and integrate smoothly into society“, says METAdrasi’s President, Lora Pappa, about the 18+ activity, that was the focal point of the event held on Monday, March 11, in Athens.

Acknowledging the commendable outcomes of METAdrasi’s pilot initiative, the Deputy Minister of Migration and Asylum, Sofia Voultepsi, referred, among others, to two very positive steps taken by the Greek State: The provision of a ten-year residence permit to former unaccompanied minors who have completed three grades of secondary education and are up to 23 years old, along with the extension of stay for those transitioning into adulthood residing in the Semi-Autonomous Living apartments until the end of the school year.

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The imperative of establishing a supportive framework in order to assure the smooth integration of young refugees into society upon reaching adulthood was highlighted by the General Secretary for Vulnerable Persons and Institutional Protection, Heracles Moskoff, as well as the UNHCR Representative in Greece, Maria Clara Martin and the Chief of Mission of IOM Greece, Gianluca Rocco, during their opening remarks at the event. 

The Ambassador of the United States to Greece, Mr. George J. Tsounis, in an emotional speech with references to his personal experience, emphasized the remarkable potential and talents of young refugees. He stressed the necessity of sustained support to these young people, not only until they are 18 years old, but until they are fully on their feet, they have completed school and are ready to contribute to the community. “It’s so important that you succeed. Because if you succeed, if every child in this country succeeds, the country succeeds” he noted.

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The true protagonists of this programme, two former unaccompanied minors supported by the 18+ activity, took the floor during the second part of the event and shared their experiences, the challenges they faced and their dreams for the future with the audience. “A year from now, I want to finish school, get my diploma and start my career as a midshipman,” said Ali Sina, a refugee from Afghanistan. Facinet, a refugee from Guinea, who currently works caring for people with severe disabilities, also shared his aspirations “I always wanted to help people. My dream is to study nursing and psychology.”

Focusing, among others, on the exemplary cooperation of two civil society organizations, METAdrasi and Cerebral Palsy Greece/Open Door, the director of the “ARIADNI” Shelter for Supported Living, Dimitris Pappas, emphasized the importance of breaking down stereotypes and to literally “open the door” to young people from other countries and diverse backgrounds.

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These children seek to establish roots somewhere, to be given the opportunities to contribute to society. We take pride in them. We often call them “the children of METAdrasi”, and our pride extends beyond just ourselves; it includes all those who had the privilege of getting to know them better,” Lora Pappa emphasized. She also highlighted the significance of pioneering initiatives like the 18+ activity for the future: “One of the primary roles of the Civil Society is to initiate such innovative and pilot projects that address crucial gaps and pave the way for the State to adopt and further develop them.”

About the 18+ activity:
The 18+ activity, which METAdrasi launched in 2018, provides young refugees, former unaccompanied minors, primarily with shelter, but also with a range of services that cover all their basic needs, such as legal assistance and psychosocial support. The programme emphasises on their integration into the labour market and the development of their skills. To date, more than 80 former unaccompanied minors have been offered safe shelter and protection. It is estimated that within a year or so, 60% of the young people become independent, working and renting their own homes.

For the accommodation of 30 former unaccompanied minors, METAdrasi maintains a three-storey residence in the heart of Athens, which has been provided by a supporter, while another apartment in the city accommodates the girls. Two similar structures operate with great success also in Kalamata.

Since the beginning of this activity in 2018 until today, the support of donors and supporters of the Organization, as well as foundations such as the Kahane Foundation, has been invaluable. Since 2023, UNHCR has also embraced the programme.

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