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6 Mar, 2009 06:14

No future for immigrant kids in Greece

Begging instead of studying is the fate of many children of illegal immigrants living in Greece and limited resources are hindering efforts to get them off the streets.

Greece has strict immigration policies meaning that newcomers usually stay underground. And when it’s families, the result is a generation of street children.

Sofokleous Street in Athens is no place for a child to grow up. This is a neighbourhood of methadone clinics, refugee shelters and brothels.

Tzanetas Antypas runs a major charity that helps the street youths. He believes that even if the authorities are unwilling to make legal provisions for adult immigrants, the underage deserve better treatment.

“When we have a child of eight or ten years old in our house we do protect him, don’t we? Do we give him permission to do whatever he wants? Do we give him a right to run out of the house in the middle of a night? No. We treat him as parents. So Greek law has to be established in the way to treat these children as citizens of this country,” Praksis charity head says.

Olga Babani works with street children in Thessaloniki. She says there are thousands of them here. Almost none go to school. Some are involved in the sex trade. Most spend their days begging, working illegally or are engaged in crime.

“Especially during summer time they can earn up to 80-100 euros per day,” charity worker Olga Babani says.

There is a limit to what charities can do. Fifteen-year-old Melissa was a beggar in Albania but crossed the border in hope of a better life. She sells towels on the main city's square and has recently given birth to her first son.

Olga's charity found her a room but Melissa’s prospects remain unclear.

“I am very disappointed in Greece. It's hard to get a job. I'm lonely. I don't feel optimistic about my future,” says Melissa.