Helping child refugees and migrants
Integration of children seeking safety in Croatia
During the refugee and migrant crisis in 2015, numerous families with children passed through Croatia on their journey towards Western Europe, searching for safety, peace and better circumstances. Amongst them, one in three was a child. Many of them had witnessed the horrors of war that will leave an indelible mark on them as they grow up. Exhausted after their long journey, children, mothers and pregnant women passing through our country needed help and support. In crisis situations, children are the most vulnerable group, so in addition to the essentials—food, drinking water, health protection and clothing—they also need psychosocial support.
For those families with children who decided to seek asylum in Croatia and to establish a home here, it is important to provide help and support in the integration process.
UNICEF’s mobile teams, interpreters and partners were in the field from the very beginning of the refugee crisis. Our objective was to provide every child with what he or she needed the most. In reception centres, professional teams took care of the wellbeing of children and mothers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Within UNICEF’s “Places for Children”, we organised recreational activities, so that children would feel safe and protected in play and rest and in the warm support provided by adults trained to give psychological assistance to children. For the youngest and their mothers and pregnant women, we opened the Centre for Mothers and Babies. Weary from their difficult journey, in the centre mothers could change and feed their babies and rest before they continued onwards. Medical teams made sure that every child received basic medical care.
For families with children placed in the reception centres in Zagreb and Kutina, UNICEF provided medical care for mothers and children, as well as support for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. For children in Zagreb and Kutina, we organised “Places for Children” in which children could play and engage in informal learning and, at a later stage, we also organised support for learning, so that children received everything they needed for kindergarten and school.
In order to support caregivers and teachers working with child refugees and migrants, UNICEF and its partners set up comprehensive training to provide them with the knowledge, skills and tools required for work with children whose mother tongue is not Croatian.