Fulfilling the rights of children without parental care displaced from Ukraine

Promoting understanding, dialogue and coordination through legal research initiatives in Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, the Republic of Moldova and Türkiye

Two brother embrace as they prepare to move to their next location due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.


Beginning in February 2022, the war in Ukraine has triggered Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, with millions of persons fleeing Ukraine to seek international protection in other countries. An acutely vulnerable part of this displaced population are refugee children without parental care, including unaccompanied and separated children and children evacuated from alternative care settings in Ukraine. In May 2022, Eurochild, Child Circle and UNICEF collaborated to produce a discussion paper and Eurochild and UNICEF ECARO also undertook a national-level mapping exercise on laws and policies for children without parental care from Ukraine. These took stock of the legal challenges immediately after 24 February 2022, as well as those likely to arise in the following months. They also demonstrated the urgent need to improve legal clarity and reduce the complex procedures in applying international, regional, and national legal instruments to protect children without parental care displaced from Ukraine.   

In response, UNICEF launched a series of research initiatives to promote understanding of the legal context, challenges, and gaps; identify the primary applicable legal frameworks and considerations; foster dialogue and cooperation between authorities transnationally and at regional level, and; outline recommendations in the best interests of children. In July 2022, UNICEF’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, along with UNICEF offices in Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, the Republic of Moldova and Türkiye, undertook dual-level analyses of the legal challenges arising at the international and regional levels, followed by analyses of legal challenges at national levels, respectively. The regional research was undertaken by Child Circle, while national research was commissioned by UNICEF teams in-country. 

UNICEF focused on four priority areas in the analyses:

  1. Establishing, recognizing and monitoring legal responsibility, support, and assistance arrangements for children.
  2. The protection of children from violence, exploitation, and abuse through the application of national child protection laws, with a particular focus on children in alternative care.  
  3. Access to international protection which is appropriate to the individual circumstances of the child.  
  4. Identifying comprehensive, secure and sustainable solutions through best interest procedures and supported by transnational cooperation.  

In July 2023, Child Circle published its regional Report and accompanying Legal Compendium. This regional research is also available in Ukrainian and benefitted from the guidance of a Reference Group comprised of key European and International stakeholders as well as input from expert stakeholders in thematic consultations.  

Furthermore, to provide an overview of the key findings and recommendations that have arisen this research process, UNCIEF’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia published a Key Findings Brief in March 2024. The brief synthesises issues, good practises and solutions identified when applying international and European laws in EU and Council of Europe Member States, as well as country specific preliminary findings that have emerged from the research of legal experts in Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Türkiye. 

Research at the national level is currently in its final stages and final reports will be made available on this page when available.  

UNICEF, Child Circle
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