Refugee and Migrant Response on the Mediterranean and Western Balkan Routes Appeal
Humanitarian Action for Children
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal helps support the agency’s work as it provides conflict- and disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition, education, health and protection services. Return to main appeal page.
Refugee and migrant response on the Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes snapshot
- Between January and August 2022, 165,738 refugees and migrants arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Serbia, a 74 per cent increase compared with 2021. People mainly came from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burundi, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan and the Syrian Arab Republic, and from North Africa. There are currently 102,574 refugee and migrant children in the region, including 14,054 who are unaccompanied or separated from their families.
- These significant numbers of refugees and migrants have overwhelmed host countries' capacities to sustain and respond to their needs, particularly with the additional unprecedented arrivals of refugees from Ukraine.
- With humanitarian and socioeconomic situations deteriorating globally, continued and increased inflows of refugees and migrants to the countries covered in this appeal are expected in 2023, with children and women remaining most vulnerable. UNICEF will continue working with national authorities and partners to ensure the rights of all children and families on the move are protected and access to quality services is ensured, regardless of their status or origin.
- In 2023, UNICEF requires US$37 million to support host governments in ensuring that refugee and migrant children and families arriving through the Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes access health, nutrition, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and education services.
Key planned results for 2023
45,000 children reached with quality child protection support (including mental health and psychosocial)
46,440 women and children accessing gender-based violence mitigation, prevention, response
32,020 children accessing formal or non-formal education, including early learning
862,500 people reached through messaging on prevention and access to services
Funding requirements for 2023
Country needs and strategy
As of August 2022, there were an estimated 473,450 refugees and migrants (22 per cent children) living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Serbia, with approximately 165,738 new arrivals (up to 30 per cent children) recorded in 2022 – a 74 per cent increase compared with 2021. Arrivals came mainly from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burundi, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, the Syrian Arab Republic and North Africa. In 2022, the countries covered in this appeal also received an estimated 265,118 refugees arriving from Ukraine in need of support and services.
Globally, the number of people on the move has increased significantly. This is due to conflict, climate and food insecurity. As a result, the number of people seeking refuge in Europe is expected to continue to grow in 2023.
In 2022, Italy registered 63,588 refugee and migrant arrivals by sea, including 6,590 unaccompanied and separated children – a 52 per cent increase in sea arrivals compared with 2021 – in addition to 4,384 land arrivals. Refugee and migrant arrivals in Greece have increased by more than 150 per cent compared with 2021, with more than 1,000 people (including 250 children) arriving on average per month. Changes in the migration policy and the provisions for asylum-seekers and refugees, including accommodation, has had an impact on the number of people accommodated in these structures, with an overall drop in the population in reception facilities/programmes of almost 60 per cent compared with 2021, resulting in a significant increase in self-settled populations countrywide. Between January and August, more than 65,000 refugees and migrants (including 4,000 children) arrived in Serbia, double the arrivals compared with 2021. In Bosnia and Herzegovina,12,733 refugees and migrants arrived in 2022, a slight increase compared with the previous year; and 11,877 asylum applications were registered in Bulgaria, representing a steady rising since 2020.
The increase in numbers of new arrivals has overstretched national capacities to sustain support to all refugee and migrant populations. Overcrowded reception facilities have generated additional challenges in providing adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities, sufficient access to health and protection services and learning opportunities for children and families. Insufficient measures to prevent and address gender-based violence put women and girls at increased risk. Inadequate reception, identification and protection mechanisms and the limited availability of alternative care and legal guardianship options exacerbate the vulnerability of unaccompanied and separated children.
With expected continued arrivals of refugees and migrants throughout Europe in 2023, on top of already unprecedented numbers, UNICEF will work towards ensuring that the needs of all refugee and migrant children and their families are addressed. 18 Host governments and communities will be supported to provide essential services including child protection, education, health and nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, gender-based violence prevention, adolescent engagement and social and behavioural change. UNICEF will also undertake evidence generation to inform policy and planning.
UNICEF will continue working with national authorities, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other United Nations agencies and civil society organizations to ensure the rights of all children and families on the move are protected, regardless of their status or origin. Multisectoral advocacy, coordination and inclusive responses at the local and national levels and at the regional (European Union) level will remain a priority. To protect and support refugees and migrants along the Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes, there will be an emphasis on strengthening national capacities and systems through partnerships with national, subnational and municipal governments.
UNICEF will enhance the capacities of health professionals, social workers and front-line responders to identify and mitigate health and protection risks and support children and families through the asylum process. Technical support on specialized protection services for refugee and migrant children, access to legal aid and appropriate care and guardianship for unaccompanied children – preferably in communities – will be prioritized. Support will enable children to access education, including early learning, through national, formal and non-formal systems and teachers will be trained to support inclusive education and blended learning. Mothers and children will be supported to access health and nutrition services and check-ups. Survivors of gender-based violence and those in at-risk groups will receive age- and gender-appropriate information and support.
Unaccompanied and separated children and youth will have access to integrated mental health and psychosocial support and opportunities to learn life skills. They will also be given a platform to voice concerns. Information on access to services will reach refugee and migrant populations. UNICEF will fill critical, urgent gaps for children and families during the winter season with the provision of supplies, where required.
UNICEF’s advocacy efforts will focus on national, regional and European Union policy reforms that uphold children’s right to safe migration and improve best interest determination and age assessment procedures. UNICEF will advocate for an end to child immigration detention, unhindered access to social services, alignment of national policies with international norms as well as the relocation of 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.