UNICEF and the Swiss Government support integration of migrant and refugee children
UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (ECA) and the Swiss Government kicked off the project “Supporting integration of refugee and migrant children in host EU countries"
In April, the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (ECA) and the Swiss Government kicked off the project “Supporting integration of refugee and migrant children in host EU countries,” with a technical meeting between the six participating countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic. Through its country teams in these six target countries, UNICEF, with the support of the Swiss Government Rapid Response Fund, will build on its existing partnerships with national and sub-national authorities and stakeholders to strengthen mechanisms, system, services and infrastructure to better respond to the needs and rights of refugee and migrant children from Ukraine and other countries. With the technical support and oversight of UNICEF, the project will target the most vulnerable children to ensure they are integrated into EU host countries’ national child protection systems, have their needs timely assessed and met through effective case management and be granted access to high-quality support, care and protection services.
Children arriving in host countries are in need of protection, accommodation and care.
The war in Ukraine, which started in February 2022, triggered one of the fastest-growing humanitarian and child protection emergencies in recent history, placing unprecedented pressure on the child protection structures of host countries, many of which were already grappling to provide support to migrant and refugee children and families from other countries. As a result of the war, many children from Ukraine have been arriving in the EU unaccompanied or separated from their families, sometimes finding themselves in different countries than their caregivers. Children without parental care or those travelling without an adult, and children with disabilities are at high risk of family separation, violence, abuse and exploitation. Women and girls traveling alone, pregnant women, adolescent girls and unaccompanied girls are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence at every stage of their displacement.
“Children travelling with adults who are not their parents may not be identified as being separated from their primary caregivers, and procedures need to be put in place to ensure that every child remains safe”, explains Senior Child Protection in Humanitarian Action Coordinator for UN Protection Specialist, Anna Knutzen.
Many children aged 16-18 were permitted by the Ukrainian authorities to leave Ukraine on their own and may avoid contact with the child protection system in their first country of reception, fearing that they may become blocked from moving onwards.
"We are working closely with local authorities across these countries to address some of the critical challenges in the reception conditions and provision of services for unaccompanied and separated children, including Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, access to specialized support, hygiene, provision of community spaces, and support to ensure personal safety and security of these vulnerable children and their families."
Despite the untiring generosity of the hosting countries, a coordinated humanitarian response at regional, national and local levels is needed to adequately address the risks facing vulnerable migrant and refugee children. With the support of the Swiss Government Rapid Response Fund, UNICEF will leverage its partnerships with national and sub-national authorities and stakeholders to strengthen and expand the capacity of existing systems to respond to the needs and rights of refugee and migrant children from Ukraine and other countries.
To read more about the response in all 6 countries, please click HERE
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