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Map of refugee and migrant movement in Europe
UNICEF photo: a girl smiles for camera © UNICEF Greece/2018/Solomon A four-year-old girl in Skaramagkas Open Accommodation Site in Athens, Greece, during a UNICEF event celebrating International Day of Friendship.

Refugee and migrant crisis in Europe

In 2019, UNICEF and partners plan for:
14,450

children benefitting from quality child protection services in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

17,100

children enrolled in formal and non-formal education in Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

3,400

people accessing gender-based violence prevention and response services in Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia

2019 requirements: US$27,503,082

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Snapshot

Total people in need: 294,00010
Total children (<18) in need: 65,50011

Total people to be reached: 34,80012
Total children to be reached: 27,800

Mostly from the Middle East, South Asia, East and West Africa, children on the move in Europe have fled conflict, insecurity and deprivation. In 2018, some 127,000 additional refugees and migrants, 20 per cent of them children, entered Europe.1 While arrivals decreased along the Central Mediterranean route, a spike was observed on the Eastern and Western routes, worsening the situations on the Greek islands and in southern Spain. This influx is in addition to the 1.8 million refugees and migrants, including 433,000 children, who arrived in Europe between 2014 and 2017.2 Turkey is hosting some 3.9 million people, including 1.7 million children.3 Although many do reach North and Western Europe over time, approximately 45,000 children were still located in Greece, Italy and the Western Balkans at the end of 2018.4 Despite progress across the region, refugee and migrant children continue to face heightened risks of violence, including gender-based violence and abuse, in countries of arrival, transit and destination. This is largely due to insufficient and sub-standard reception capacities, inadequate access to health and education, overwhelmed asylum and child protection systems and rising xenophobia. Some 21,000 unaccompanied or separated children registered in Greece and Italy5 still lack the continuum of care and protection that their situations demand, as national legislation, policies and resource allocation have yet to align with international best practices. These circumstances are undermining the capacities of children—accompanied or unaccompanied—to recover from their ordeals, preventing the realization of children’s rights and jeopardizing their inclusion into new communities.

Humanitarian strategy

2019 programme targets

Greece13

  • 9,500 children benefiting from quality child protection services
  • 3,000 people accessing genderbased violence prevention and response services
  • 15,500 children enrolled in formal and non-formal education, including early childhood education
  • 1,800 adolescent boys and girls reached with participation and empowerment

Italy

  • 1,150 unaccompanied and separated children benefiting from quality child protection services
  • 2,250 frontline workers and caregivers trained on child protection and alternative care
  • 2,100 adolescents participating in skills development programmes
  • 3,000 adolescent boys and girls benefitting from enhanced participation

Bulgaria

  • 300 children benefiting from quality child protection services
  • 200 people accessing gender-based violence prevention and response services
  • 600 children participating in non-formal education, including early childhood education

Serbia

  • 1,500 children benefiting from quality child protection services
  • 200 people accessing gender-based violence prevention and response services
  • 500 children enrolled in formal education activities

Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • 2,000 children benefiting from quality child protection services
  • 500 children participating in nonformal education activities
  • 500 children vaccinated

Regional technical support

  • 9 countries with enhanced preparedness and response capacities related to children on the move14

In 2019, UNICEF will continue to prioritize the needs of children and women on the move in Europe. At the country level, adjustments will be made to UNICEF’s response, drawing on lessons learned regarding the slow improvement of reception capacities, which occasionally resulted in child migration detention, and challenges integrating older children into schooling. Combining humanitarian interventions with technical assistance, UNICEF will partner with governments and civil society organizations to address remaining challenges. In camp and urban reception facilities, UNICEF will offer mental health and psychosocial support, case management, referrals and legal aid. Mothers with young children will benefit from dedicated early childhood development, health, nutrition and vaccination guidance. Programme priorities will include the care and protection of unaccompanied children, as well as preventing and responding to gender-based violence. Statutory agencies and civil society organizations will be supported to ensure that unaccompanied and separated children are identified on time, provided with the care and protection required, and that community-based alternatives, guardianship and durable solutions are developed. UNICEF will enhance services for at-risk and survivor women, girls, boys and men through knowledge generation, evidence-based advocacy and capacity development of frontline workers and national actors. Children’s access to education and adolescent skills development, which are critical to social inclusion, will be central to the response. Through intercultural education and mediation, UNICEF and education authorities will fast track refugee and migrant children’s school enrolment. Non-formal education will complement these efforts, offering accelerated learning and addressing the specific needs of children outside of compulsory education. Participation will be promoted through life-skills and empowerment programmes. Age- and culturally-appropriate information on children’s rights and entitlements in countries of arrival, transit and destination will be disseminated through platforms such as U-report. Regional capacity to bolster country preparedness and response will be enhanced in a fluctuating environment. Contingency partnership agreements will be established in selected countries to facilitate the delivery of child protection, non-formal education, mother and child health services and child rights monitoring. Earlier investments in the human resources roster will permit fast deployments to most-affected countries. UNICEF will foster coordination around child rights monitoring and case management capacity, including best interest determination procedures,6 across regions and United Nations agencies. Regardless of their immigration status, the rights of refugee and migrant children will be further promoted through strategic advocacy efforts at the country and regional levels, together with relevant civil society organizations, ombudspersons and governments.

Results from 2018

As of 31 October 2018, UNICEF had US$24.5 million available against the US$34.2 million appeal (72 per cent funded). Since the start of the response in 2015, UNICEF has reached some 285,000 refugee and migrant children with a comprehensive package of services. In 2018, some 26,000 children benefited from mental health and psychosocial support. More than 5,400 of the most at-risk children, including unaccompanied and separated children, were identified and received case management and referrals. UNICEF reached some 4,000 people with gender-based violence prevention and response services, and supported the capacity building of 1,000 frontline workers. In addition, 2,900 staff in care facilities for unaccompanied children and reception centres across the region received training on child protection standards. Drawing on UNICEF technical assistance and knowledge sharing, government partners amended their child protection legal and policy frameworks and increased their capacities for reception and service provision. In Germany, reception minimum standards are gradually being rolled out at the sub-national level by states and municipalities. National authorities in Bulgaria, Greece and Italy adopted new child rights-compliant legislation and mobilized resources for appropriate care arrangements and guardianship for unaccompanied children. In 2018, more than 15,600 children participated in formal and structured non-formal education, including early childhood education activities. UNICEF worked with education authorities to make schools more inclusive and equipped teachers with the required knowledge, skills and technology solutions. Joint monitoring, communication and advocacy work with civil society, ombudspersons and UNICEF National Committees, as reflected in the UNICEF report, Protected on Paper? An analysis of Nordic country responses to asylum-seeking children,7 the Children Uprooted campaign8 and the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts,9 have raised the profile of refugee and migrant children and ultimately advanced the realization of their rights.

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Funding requirements

UNICEF is requesting US$27.5 million to meet the needs of refugee and migrant children in Europe in 2019. Inadequate funding will hinder the effort to eradicate violence against and abuse of children, and undermine their social inclusion and access to basic services. The response will focus on key interventions that support children in the most affected countries. To adapt to evolving and emerging situations, UNICEF is requesting flexible funding and including rapid reaction support. In line with UNICEF’s multi-regional approach, these requirements complement those outlined in the Humanitarian Action for Children appeals for Syrian refugees and the Middle East and North Africa, West and Central Africa and Europe and Central Asia regions.

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Requirements by sector

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1 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mediterranean Situation Operational Portal, November 2018.
2 Ibid.
3 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Turkey, October 2018.
4 This includes some 25,700 refugee and migrant children in Greece (UNICEF Greece); 17,300 refugee and migrant unaccompanied and separated children in Italy (Government of Italy Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs); 1,000 refugee and migrant children in Serbia (UNHCR Serbia); 600 refugee and migrant children in Bosnia and Herzegovina (United Nations Country Team Bosnia and Herzegovina); and 400 refugee and migrant children in Bulgaria (Bulgaria State Agency for Refugees).
5 This includes some 17,300 unaccompanied and separated children in Italy (Government of Italy Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs) and 3,600 unaccompanied and separated children in Greece (Greek National Centre for Social Solidarity).
6 In line with article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the joint general comment no. 3 (2017) of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and no. 22 (2017) of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the general principles regarding the human rights of children in the context of international migration; and UNHCR Guidelines on Determining the Best Interests of the Child.
7 United Nations Children’s Fund Office of Research - Innocenti, Protected on Paper? An analysis of Nordic country responses to asylum-seeking children, UNICEF, Florence, 2018.
8 United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Children Uprooted’, UNICEF, , accessed 5 December 2018.
9 Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts, ‘About the Initiative on Child Rights in the Global Compacts’, Initiative for Child Rights, www.childrenonthemove.org/, accessed 5 November 2018.
10 This figure is based on the current refugee and migrant population present in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Serbia, as well as an estimation of new arrivals in 2019 in these countries. UNHCR, November 2018.
11 Ibid.
12 UNICEF interventions in affected countries mainly target children and women in the areas of child protection, gender-based violence, education, health and nutrition.
13 Countries are presented in the following order: countries of arrival (Greece, Italy and Bulgaria), followed by countries of transit (Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina) or following the migration route, with the countries with the greatest population needs listed first.
14 Countries to be provided with regional technical preparedness and response assistance and capacity building include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.
15 UNICEF has concluded its programmatic presence in Germany as of December 2018, in coordination with the Government of Germany and the German National Committee.
16 Increased funding requirements are due to the increase in arrivals in 2018, coupled with the continuous need to support the Government of Greece’s capacity to respond to the refugee and migrant situation in the country.
17 Funding requirements in Serbia have been reduced to reflect the decrease in needs related to refugees and migrants in the country, and the gradual transition from UNICEF-supported to nationally-owned service provision.
18 In Italy, child protection and education programming focuses mainly on adolescents and youth.