Since 2015 Greece has been at the forefront of a mass influx of refugees and migrants who flee war, persecution and economic adversities in their countries in search of a safe heaven and a better future in Europe.
Children and families on the move and unaccompanied minors are particularly vulnerable to the risks of smuggling, exploitation and trafficking, whereas the lack of proper information and awareness on existing services and mechanisms of support and advice contributes to the under-reporting of cases of abuse and violence against children.
In an effort to step up the level of awareness among refugees and migrants residing in the country, The Smile of the Child, the Child Helpline International member from Greece and national operator of the National Helpline for Children SOS 1056 and the European Helpline for Children and Adolescents 116111, established an innovative cooperation with SAWA, our member from Palestine.
Using technology for the benefit of children and following strenuous preparations and efforts from both IT teams in Greece and Palestine, the child helplines of The Smile of the Child and SAWA are interconnected free-of-charge, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
From now on when a counsellor at The Smile of the Child receives a call from a refugee or migrant child in Greece who does not speak Greek or English, a counselor from SAWA in Palestine can participate as part of a three-way call overcoming the language barrier. The provision of these services require the training of the respective teams in Greece and Palestine as the aim of this interconnection is to provide individualised support and guidance in line with the cultural needs of children.
The inaugurating connection took place on 11 May 2018 on the occasion of an official visit of European Commissioner of Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Mr. Christos Stylianides to the Operational Center of The Smile of the Child in Athens.
The initiative represents an excellent example of innovative cooperation between child helplines through the use of technology based on the mutual vision and passion to support vulnerable children on the move in need of protection and care. The aim of both organisations is to expand this model in Europe and elsewhere in the near future with the support of Child Helpline International.