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EU and UNICEF join hands to support Greece in protecting refugee and migrant children

New project will monitor needs of vulnerable children, says UNICEF

BRUSSELS , 19 May 2017 - A grant from the European Commission of Euro 955,809.00 to UNICEF is expected to give a much needed boost to the efforts of the Greek authorities to provide better protection to over 20,000 vulnerable refugee and migrant children stranded in the country.

This comes at a time of increasing levels of distress and desperation among children living in a state of limbo. With the funding, from the European Commission’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme, UNICEF is supporting the Greek Government’s efforts to better monitor the situation of refugee and migrant children and providing them with stronger protection.

The need for better data and tracking of child migrants were among the recommendations issued by the European Commission to Member States in April as part of new policy guidelines that were seen as a milestone towards addressing the rights and needs of refugee and migrant children.

"Through this grant, the EU is providing very practical support to improve the child protection system and monitoring on the ground,” said Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “We are glad to see the funds being used to support the Greek Deputy Ombudsperson for children, as well as the Centre for Social Solidarity (EKKA), given their key roles".

The closure of migration routes across Europe has left some 20,300 children effectively trapped in Greece. Many -- including some 2,000 unaccompanied children – are highly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

“Investments like this by the European Union will not only help us today to get better services to vulnerable migrant children in Greece, but will also shape future laws, policies and systems at municipal and central level so we build on this work going forward,” said Afshan Khan UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe.

The partnership, begun in early 2017, is already showing concrete results. It has helped the Greek National Center for Social Solidarity (EKKA) to speed up the process of identifying and placing unaccompanied children in protected shelters.

A new monitoring mechanism has been established by the Deputy Ombudsperson for Children’s Rights (with regular site visits and monitoring reports) to track the situation of refugee and migrant children. The Hellenic Statistical Authority is supporting government agencies in collecting child-sensitive information to improve children’s access to social services and to inform future government policies.

At regional level the EU-UNICEF partnership aims to promote exchange of good practices on child rights monitoring amongst ombudspersons in the European Union and neighboring countries.

The ultimate project goal is to strengthen the child protection system in Greece; this should not only improve the situation of refugee and migration children but benefit all children in the country.

The 2017 UNICEF’s funding requirement for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe - to respond to the needs of children on the move, stranded and asylum seekers - is US$ 43.5m. The current funding gap for these interventions is US$ 23.5 million.


Note to Editors:

1. Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence
2. End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating
3. Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status
4. Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services
5. Press for action on the underlying causes of large scale movements of refugees and migrants
6. Promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization in countries of transit and destination

About the European Commission – Directorate General for Justice and Consumers
On 12 April 2017, the Commission adopted a Communication on the protection of children in migration and it was in the context of elaboration of a comprehensive approach that a grant was awarded to UNICEF.  Under the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme, to support its work on promoting the protection of the rights of the child, the European Commission prioritises capacity-building in child protection systems and on child-friendly justice, as well as on preventing and responding to violence against children. 

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

To find out more about UNICEF, go to

For more information contact 
Aikaterini Kitidi, UNICEF’s Refugee and Migrant Response Team in Greece, +30 693 7115656,
Sarah Crowe, UNICEF Spokesperson Geneva,, +41229095747
Simon Ingram, UNICEF Spokesperson Brussels,, +32491905118
DG Justice and Consumers, Fundamental Rights Policy, rights of the child –



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