Let’s talk about a population in Greece that faces many challenges but has few opportunities. Their voice is rarely heard in mainstream media, while there is no one to properly guide them in case of emergency. Are they adults or teenagers? On the one hand, they are considered juveniles and unable to take matters into their own hands when it comes to the freedom to decide about their own lives. On the other hand, when they ask for help or support they have to do things by themselves because they are officially adults.
So, another question arises here: Is it possible to do everything by yourself, without any help, when you arrive in a new country and a new culture as someone who has just turned 18?
- Asylum procedure: The first issue you face as a minor who applies for asylum in Greece is the unreasonable delay of the interview. Sometimes you have to wait for more than a year, which means that by that time you will be an adult and it is easier for the asylum service to reject your application. What is more, it is really difficult to find a lawyer, and even if you do you will have a new problem, namely school absenteeism, because you can only speak with the lawyer and the asylum service during school hours.
- Accommodation and support: In shelters, you are accompanied by social workers, lawyers, psychologists and guardians for minors, who are there to help with problems and ensure access to everything. You will also be provided with food and medical care. When you turn 18 you can’t stay in shelters for minors anymore and you don’t have free access to goods and services. You meet your social worker once a week or even not at all and you have to arrange your own appointments for anything you might need.
- Education: School is the only way to get an education. Education is provided until the age of 18. After that, you have to follow the same procedure as Greek students. Imagine attending high school for two or three years in a foreign country, where you barely understand the language, and after getting your diploma sitting national exams to get into higher education. Would that be easy for you? I think that there should be a more focused program for foreign students who want to continue their studies after high school.
I hope this article gives a voice to all those facing similar problems when they turn 18. When you reach this age, no one focuses on you any more. Let’s not forget this age group because they play a key role in the development of our society.
*This article has been published in issue #13 of “Migratory Birds” newspaper, which was released as an annex with “Efimerida ton Syntakton” newspaper (Newspaper of the Editors) on May 25th 2019.