At least 900 child-beggars of various nationalities wander in the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki , begging at traffic lights. This data, published exclusively by the newspaper “Eleftheros Typos” was being selected from May 2012 until June 2013 . The recording was made by the organisation for the social support of youth “ARSIS, ” through a program funded by the “Stavros Niarchos” institution. It reflects the problems of child-beggars in an eloquent way, addressing issues everyone knows, but does nothing about.
According to “ARSIS” there is a circuit that acts in Greece, Albania, Romania and Bulgaria. They exploit children from Greece and other neighboring countries, who are forced to beg or clean car windshields. “As the organization has its headquarters in Thessaloniki it was easier for us to ” ferret out ” these children from all parts of the city, while in Athens we were targeting the central areas,” says Valmpona Chistouna from ARSIS .
These children are infants, in their mother’s arms, but also teenagers up to 17 years old. The majority come from Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, and some from Greek Roma. Thessaloniki, that borders with Bulgaria, is the main passage into our country. In Athens quite a large percentage come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Romania.
ARSIS in collaboration with the neighboring countries, is trying to identify these children. However, this is not always possible, especially in the cases of Bulgaria and Romania. In 2013, the death of a girl from Bulgaria in Thessaloniki, hit by a bus, caused difficulties for authorities who could not confirm her identity.
The organization “The Smile of the Child” within 2009-2012 has forwarded 97 complaints about child exploitation to prosecution authorities. At the same time, there were 166 interventions made for minors who were forced to beg, but the origin of these children have not been clarified.