More than a year after the UK government pledged to transfer hundreds of child refugees from Greece, the first unaccompanied minor from the country will arrive in London this week.
However the 15-year-old Syrian is described by experts as profoundly traumatised because of the delay and has recently attempted to take his own life.
Fourteen months have elapsed since the boy was first identified by the Home Office as especially vulnerable and eligible for immediate transfer.
It has also emerged that Hammersmith and Fulham council in west London told the Home Office a year ago that it had a place for the teenager, but officials did not act on the offer – a decision that charities say has caused “irreversible damage” to the child, who has lost contact with his family in Syria. Giannoulias Kefala, the council’s principal social worker, said: “From my perspective, the impasse and likely irreversible harm already caused to this extremely vulnerable child is unbearably disturbing.”
Kefala said that last December she informed the Home Office of her intention to travel to Greece to assess the boy. “It is absolutely clear from my visit that the long delay has caused this child terrible harm, and that it has been apparent for a long time that the available resources in Greece cannot cater for this child’s needs. Recent hospital records make clear that the ongoing uncertainty is having a devastating impact.”
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