Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe Appeal
Humanitarian Action for Children
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Refugee and migrant response in Europe snapshot
- Between January and August 2020, nearly 50,000 refugees and migrants (25 per cent children) arrived in Europe, a trend likely to continue in 2021. Children on the move – particularly the over 10,000 unaccompanied and separated children – are highly vulnerable and require urgent care and protection.
- Despite the gains made in recent years, humanitarian needs remain significant and capacities to respond are overstretched due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Access to quality, appropriate health, nutrition, protection and education services and basic supplies is critical.
- UNICEF will work with United Nations agencies and partners to support governments to improve reception conditions, provide protection and facilitate access to basic services for refugee and migrant boys, girls, adolescents and women, while also advocating for their rights.
- UNICEF requires US$36.4 million to support the immediate and longer-term humanitarian needs of affected refugee and migrant children and their families and host communities in Europe.
Key planned results for 2021
8,100 unaccompanied / separated children reunified with family or provided with family-based care
25,570 people accessing gender-based violence mitigation / prevention / response services
26,950 children accessing educational services
183,200 people reached through messaging on access to services
Funding requirements for 2021
Country needs and strategy
Refugees and migrants continue to arrive in Europe, despite measures to curtail irregular migration. Boys and girls, particularly unaccompanied and separated children, remain vulnerable to abuse, gender-based violence and exploitation in countries of arrival, transit and destination.
While the COVID-19 pandemic initially curtailed arrivals in 2020, the easing of related border controls brought increasing numbers of people into Europe who are expected to remain into 2021. Nearly 50,000 refugees and migrants (25 per cent children) arrived between January and August. Italy registered a steep increase in new arrivals largely from Libya (19,000, 16 per cent children and 13 per cent unaccompanied). Greece saw nearly 12,000 new arrivals and currently hosts the largest caseload (121,000, including 45,000 children, 4,400 who are unaccompanied). New arrivals were registered in Serbia (nearly 18,000), Bosnia and Herzegovina (nearly 12,000), Montenegro (nearly 1,800) and Bulgaria (nearly 1,400). With limited pathways to settling in destination countries, most will remain in tenuous conditions. Over 10,000 unaccompanied and separated children need urgent care and protection.
Capacities for reception, identification, protection and integration, particularly alternative care options for unaccompanied children, remain insufficient. Vulnerable children, young people and families are living in unsafe, overcrowded, precarious accommodations, and are unable to access protection, legal guardianship and basic services. Shifts in resource allocations and overstretched national capacities make it difficult to access quality, appropriate health, nutrition, protection and education services and basic supplies, requiring further investment in systems to respond to the specific needs of children, adolescent and families.
Exigent circumstances – such as the fire in Moria Centre, Greece, in September, which left 12,000 refugees and migrants (4,200 children) homeless – highlight the fragility and need for urgent action. COVID-19-related lockdowns and movement restrictions have generated overcrowded reception facilities, disrupted the provision of critical education, health and protection services and restricted asylum procedures and family reunification. Increased investment in systems, capacities and supplies to shift to the remote provision of critical services and protect front-line workers is needed.
Multi-sectoral advocacy, coordination and response remain critical at the local, national and European Union levels to sustainably manage migration and allow children, young people and families to recover and contribute to inclusive societies. Recent, successful inter-agency advocacy to relocate unaccompanied and separated children from Greece to other European Union Member States and lessen health and protection risks in reception facilities is an important example of what can be achieved.
In 2021, UNICEF will work with United Nations sister agencies and civil society organizations to strengthen government systems and capacities and reinforce the linkages between humanitarian action and development programmes. This work will focus on improving reception conditions, protection and access to basic services for affected children. The response will complement the global compacts on migration and refugees and promote effective scale-up models.
Recognizing the vulnerabilities of migrants and refugees to COVID-19 and other crises, UNICEF interventions will adapt to evolving contexts and prioritize at-risk children. In Greece and Italy, UNICEF will support children in host communities affected by COVID-19 with access to information, health care, protection and psychosocial support. In line with the Grand Bargain commitments, UNICEF will support governments to align national policies with international norms and improve capacities to address the immediate and longer-term needs of refugee and migrant children, including those with disabilities. Social, health care and other front-line workers will be trained, including online, to identify and mitigate health and protection risks, accompany children and caregivers through asylum procedures, and ensure timely referrals to specialized services. Teachers will be assisted to strengthen approaches to intercultural education, language instruction and life-skills training, including through online forums. Unaccompanied children and youth in reception facilities and urban areas will be enabled to access integrated mental health and psychosocial support.
UNICEF will prioritize the provision of appropriate care to unaccompanied children, preferably in communities, as well as legal aid and guardianship. Pregnant and lactating women will be supported to care for their children and access immunization. Gender-based violence survivors and at-risk groups will receive age- and gender-appropriate information, referrals and support. Empowerment and skills-building for young people will be scaled up to boost youth resilience and provide opportunities to participate in social and behavioural change. Messaging campaigns, including on social media platforms, will include information on COVID-19, access to services and reducing stigma.
At the regional level, UNICEF will coordinate risk monitoring, strengthen knowledge and support preparedness. Advocacy will focus on national and regional policy reforms that uphold the child's right to safe migration, improve best-interests determination and age assessment, end child immigration detention and secure unhindered access to basic social services, including health care and education. This will include continued inter-agency advocacy to mainstream children’s rights into the European Union Pact on Migration and relocate unaccompanied and separated children to other European Union Member States.
Find out more about UNICEF's work
Humanitarian Action is at the core of UNICEF’s mandate to realize the rights of every child. This edition of Humanitarian Action for Children – UNICEF’s annual humanitarian fundraising appeal – describes the ongoing crises affecting refugee and migrant girls and boys in Europe; the strategies that we are using to respond to these situations; and the donor support that is essential in this response.