Ilias Varelakis,
Case Management Team Leader in Thessaloniki

"We support children with protection concerns and their families in a multidisciplinary manner, which includes education, medical, legal, accommodation, and psychosocial support services, in order to build their strengths."

Addressing child protection concerns through case management

In any humanitarian crisis, children are amongst the most vulnerable population and face increased risk of any kind of abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence.  Case management aims at addressing the needs of children and their families by individually following up on them and by providing all-inclusive support. Tdh offers this service in Thessaloniki and in the wider area of Epirus in refugee sites and protective apartments to ensure the most vulnerable families get adequate assistance.

Holistic protection support for refugee families

In the area of Thessaloniki we have been offering case management services since February 2017. Following the identification of children with protection concerns, we support them and their families in a multidisciplinary manner, which includes education, medical, legal, accommodation, and psychosocial support services, in order to build their strengths,” explains Ilias Varelakis, Case Management Team Leader of the project Tdh implements in the area of Thessaloniki with financial support from the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid.

We closely follow-up on children and families in vulnerable situations and on children at risk of abuse, exploitation or violence, which were referred to us by other actors or the local community. We work with refugees accommodated in apartments, whose decision for family reunification is pending, as well as with young refugees in protective apartments managed by Tdh in the urban area of Thessaloniki. Syrian, Kurdish, Afghan, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Congolese and Moroccan individuals have so far benefitted from our support,” he adds.

Challenges our case management workers face

In reality, the protection work through case management faces a few challenges. “People accommodated in apartments can be isolated from their own communities and do not know about the services available. It is therefore difficult to find families in need of our support; identification is a crucial step for launching this process. In addition, it is often observed that these families only think of their main goal, which is to be reunified with their family in other countries. They see Greece only as a temporary solution and thus do not focus on improving their own lives in the host country, despite the fact that they will spend some time there. Lack of speed in the way public mechanisms operate further complicate the successful processing of case management,” Ilias observes. 

So how can case management be more efficient in Greece?

“The Child Protection Working Group is pivotal in addressing current challenges. This forum for coordination, identification and analysis of gaps, following the withdrawal of NGOs due to lack of funding, provides an opportunity for those remaining to enhance collaboration and to cover these gaps. The objective is to ensure public services are reinforced. Second, common child protection referral pathways need to be strengthened. The collaboration of other child protection actors, local community and authorities (e.g. public social service, police), is a prerequisite. They need to act in coordination to complement current state structures and services and ensure a smooth handover of services. Finally yet importantly, the local community should be involved in stepping up the process of integration of refugee population to ensure peaceful coexistence,” Ilias concludes.