An incredible adventure was awaiting our team of escorts when last Friday at 8:30 in the morning, they went to pick up four unaccompanied children from Athens and Thebes to accompany them to appropriate accommodation facilities in Thessaloniki. Two lived in refugee camps for months, one in a police station and one was in a hospital in Athens. The process of the escorting mission was done in accordance with the strict protocols of METAdrasi to which have also been added those for the protection against coronavirus: protocols for picking up and transferring the children to their destination, medical examinations, all the necessary protection measures in accordance with the instructions of EODY (Hellenic National Public Health Organization).
As the mission was on its way, just outside Thessaloniki they received a call from the hospital in Athens where they had picked up one of the children. The hospital said that due to a mix-up and bad coordination, they had not informed us that for this boy the results of a second covid-19 test were pending; the results had just come out and were marginally positive. The team froze!
A marathon of information and guidance requests from the competent public authorities started; we communicated by phone and in writing asking for instructions. The accommodation facilities could not accept the children due to the absence of areas for quarantine. The escort team was desperate. In order to be in an open space, away from other people, the team found a spot in a park in Thessaloniki and made sure the children had something to eat. The children exhausted, laid on the grass waiting for a solution to be found. Our teams in Athens and Thessaloniki kept trying to find someone responsible to give us instructions.
It started getting dark. Where would the children sleep? After repeated calls to hospitals in Thessaloniki, at eleven pm we managed to find a doctor at the Pediatric Clinic of the Ippokrateio Hospital in Thessaloniki. “Don’t worry, come here. We will help you”, these were the magic words that restored everyone’s morale.
They immediately got in the van and headed to the hospital where the covid-19 tests were carried out. One child remained there as a suspicious case in order to be isolated, but the hospital could not keep the other three children. The team’s adventure would not end and it was twelve at night. The only place available where the children could sleep was in Ioannina, an apartment we had recently prepared to house unaccompanied teenagers. The team started the journey again and at three in the morning arrived in Ioannina.
The next day, the results of the tests came back from the Ippokrateio Hospital. All negative! It was with great relief that the whole team once again started to escort the children safely, with their tests, to the accommodation facilities in Thessaloniki.
Through this adventurous escorting mission that lasted three days instead of one day, the complete lack of a protocol by the competent authorities for these cases came to light. All those responsible raised their hands in surrender and told us to find the solution on our own. And had it not been for the dedicated team of doctors of the Special Unit for Children’s Infections of the Ippokrateio Hospital of Thessaloniki to help us, as well as the METAdrasi team, perhaps these children would still be on the grass of a park… Unfortunately, however, this is the only way in which things progress in our country; by conscientious, exceptional people.