Map of refugee and migrant movement in Europe
UNICEF photo: a young man, wearing a backpack and holding a blanket on his lap, looks at camera © UNICEF/UNI200261/Nybo At the Opatovac registration and transit centre in Croatia, Abdulhakim, 17, from Afghanistan, will spend a few hours at this centre, along with as many as 4,500 other refugees and migrants.

Refugee and migrant crisis in Europe

In 2016, UNICEF and partners plan for:

children benefitted from the standard package in children and family support hubs in Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as well as Greece


at-risk children identified through screening by outreach teams and child protection support centres in Turkey

2016 Requirements: US$30,822,000

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Total affected population: 1.3 million5
Total affected children: 550,0006

Total people to be reached in 2016: 447,000
Total children to be reached in 2016: 298,000

Children represent an increasing proportion of the refugees and migrants arriving into Europe following arduous, often dangerous journeys, primarily from the Syrian Arab Republic and conflict zones in the Middle East. In 2015, 1 million refugees and migrants entered Europe1, with the vast majority coming via Greece, Turkey and the western Balkan countries. In Germany, 300,000 children arrived in 20152 and protection capacities were stretched thin. Since September 2015, the proportion of women and children transiting the western Balkans route has progressively increased and now comprises more than 50 per cent of those on the move3. Refugee and migrant children and mothers require access to special protection, rest, counselling and care while on the move and once they have arrived at their final destination. Although governments have taken commendable action to establish the necessary services, the region is facing limited resources and inadequate capacities and therefore requires urgent support.

Humanitarian strategy

2016 Programme Targets

Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:

  • 100,000 children benefitted from the standard package4 in children and family support hubs in each of the four countries
  • 30,000 infants accessed mother and baby care centre services in each of the four countries
  • 54,000 children protected from weather conditions and assisted with health and hygiene items
  • 150 front-line workers per country trained on child protection standards


  • 2,000 at-risk children identified through screening by outreach teams and child protection support centres
  • 60 front-line workers trained on child protection standards
  • 8,000 children received culturally appropriate non-food items

Greece (planned):

  • 100,000 children accessed mother and baby care centres and child-friendly spaces
  • 150 front-line workers trained on child protection standards

UNICEF is focusing on strengthening national capacities to meet international standards for child protection through an expanded programme response. The response will scale up and keep pace with new challenges in countries with the greatest number of children on the move, countries of final destination and newly-affected countries, as routes change with evolving political situations and scenarios. Projecting up to 300,000 at-risk children in 2016, UNICEF will support Governments in countries with children on the move and in countries of destination where UNICEF is establishing or strengthening an operational response to the refugee and migrant crisis. In Turkey, UNICEF will support the response to mobile refugee and migrant children and women, particularly in coastal areas. UNICEF will continue to strengthen programme readiness in countries at risk of large-scale refugee and migrant movements (i.e. Albania, Bulgaria and Kosovo7) and expand this, as required, to other countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Romania). UNICEF’s global strategy for this crisis starts with addressing the needs of highly vulnerable children in conflict-affected countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as those who flee to other countries seeking shelter and care. UNICEF will provide an integrated and predictable package of child protection, health, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for children and mothers along the movement routes. Response will be aligned with the multi-agency Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan and carried out in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross to promote common standards for child protection-based response, including improved data collection, monitoring of the situation of children and advocacy.

Results from 2015

As of 31 October 2015, UNICEF had received 22 per cent (US$3.1 million) of its US$14 million September 2015 appeal for programmes in Croatia, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Through October 2015, the UNICEF response had enabled 41,892 refugee and migrant children to access child-friendly spaces offering play, rest and counselling services in nine separate facilities in the three countries. In addition, 9,948 children accessed mother and baby care centres, and 2,255 of these children and mothers were referred to on-site health services. More than 8,000 children received winterization support such as warm jackets, trousers, hats and mittens. In addition, 2,251 unaccompanied and separated children benefited from family tracing and reunification, psychosocial services and family-based care, while 44 front-line police, social workers and aid providers in Croatia and Serbia received training on relevant child protection standards. UNICEF assessment missions to Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Slovenia informed possible future cooperation with governments in 2016 with a focus on child protection technical support. UNICEF also supported contingency planning for countries with potential refugee and migrant arrivals: Albania, Bulgaria and Kosovo (UN SCR 1244).

Funding requirements

UNICEF is appealing for US$30,822,000 to support the needs of children and women affected by the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe in 2016. This includes technical assistance in countries with new or planned programmes. In countries with no UNICEF programme, at government request, assessment missions will determine the basis for technical support. This appeal is complementary to the requirements in the Humanitarian Action for Children appeals for the Syrian Arab Republic and Syrian Refugees. Regional coordination and programme expertise will support the multi-country response in what remains a continuously dynamic context, reinforced by global advocacy to ensure the response is child-focused. Immediate UNICEF funding needs for the first six months of 2016 are estimated to be US$8,995,000. This can be revised upwards as implementation is accelerated or new needs emerge. This appeal replaces the previous appeal of US$14 million issued in September 2015, with remaining funds carried forward to 2016.

1 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also available on their web portal at
2 The Government of Germany.
3 The Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Ministry of Interior. The Country Office collected information on daily basis from
4 Includes child-friendly spaces offering play and psychosocial assistance, and mother and baby centres supporting infant and young child feeding.
5 All figures include children in countries of destination.
6 Ibid.
7 All references to Kosovo in Humanitarian Action for Children 2016 should be understood to be in the context of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).