Children’s privacy: a gatekeeper to children’s rights in Greece

By Sevasti-Melissa Nolas

Greek newspaper To Vima reported late last night of some less than sanguine developments for children’s rights and the welfare of children and their families in Greece.

It has come to light that Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panagiotaros has requested from the Greek Ministry of Interior (the equivalent of the British Home Office) for the exact data of “foreign infants and young children, by country of origin, who are in nursery schools” in Greece.

To Vima’s headline reads “Taking a leaf out of Herod’s book” and the request follows earlier demands made by the party for the relevant information of immigrants’ use of health services in the country. Both requests appear to follow alarming pre-election statements that “if Golden Dawn are elected to parliament, we will storm hospitals as well as nurseries, and we will throw illegal immigrants and their children on the streets”, and a rise in incidents of violence against immigrants in the country in the last six months.

Under Greek law nurseries ensure the right of access to all children irrespective of nationality, religion or gender and linguistic, racial or social group. This right of access ensures that children’s rights under the UNCRC, of which Greece is a signatory, are preserved.

The latest developments, if enforced by the Ministry of Interior and acquiesced by pan-Hellenic municipalities, would open the doors for the violation of a raft of rights under the UNCRC. As well as a direct violation of children’s rights to privacy, a violation of their rights to non-discrimination, to education, to benefits from social security and to protection from violence would surely follow.

At the same time, if children’s data was connected to that of their families, parents’ and siblings’ rights would also be jeopardize. Should the absurd plan of collecting data on immigrant infants and children be actioned these families, many of which have made Greece their home, would face difficult decisions about whether or not to stay in the country under the threat of explicit discrimination, violence and abuse from the far right. This would make the Greek State solely responsible, in one fowl swoop, for reneging on its duties of care and protection, which are already patchy at the best of times, for its most vulnerable charges.

According to To Vima article, it is reported that some nurseries are already receiving ‘urgent’ requests from the ministry to hand over infant and child data. There are glimmers of hope however, as it is also reported in the same article that pedagogues, in Crete for example, are resisting the ministry’s request arguing unequivocally that they “will not hand over data of infants to neo-Nazis who openly threaten them”.

It was exactly two weeks ago that the Greek Citizen’s Ombudsman (O Synigoros tou Polite) held a one-day event, following its April report to the UNCRC on the state of children’s rights in Greece. The event focused on defending children’s rights in Greece in times of crisis and amongst other things it was noted that immigrant children, children of refugees, Roma children and children of other ethnic minorities were especially vulnerable to further marginalization in the current economic crisis.

Recommendations set out to the UNCRC for the improvement of children’s rights in Greece included a plethora of action points for the general improvement of child welfare and child protection in the country, as well as recognizing the importance of children’s right to privacy. The latter point was made in relation to educating the media of children’s rights to a private life. Perhaps, given yesterday’s reports, the Ombudsman will need to start by educating its own government first.

Dr Sevasti-Melissa Nolas is an academic working at the University of Sussex’s Department of Social Work. Her research focuses on children’s participation rights and youth development, with an emphasis on their implications for social action, social innovation and social justice. She is also a Greek living in London with her husband, and amongst other things, worrying about the developments back home.

October 11, 2012. Children & Young People, Internationalisation. 1 comment.