Unaccompanied and Separated Girls in Europe

Strengthening identification and support in the Refugee and Migrant Response

invisible girls


Migration phenomenon is gendered, with gender roles, relations and inequalities influencing who migrates, why and how they move, and where they end up. Gender shapes the risks and threats that girls’ and boys’ refugee and migrants experience on their journey and on arrival, how they cope and the mechanisms in place for their protection. Migration routes are notoriously dangerous for adolescent girls. Many are fleeing violence and abuse or are trafficked, which only increases their vulnerability to violence and exploitation. They face specific risks related to gender-based violence before, during and after migration. Leaving home may not be the escape they hoped for, as they continue to be at risk in countries of transit and arrival.

To shed a light on the situation of girls UNICEF published “Making the Invisible Visible: the identification of unaccompanied and separated girls in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Serbia an Analysis on unaccompanied and separated girls, highlighting how lack of understanding on gender dynamics and needs, and appropriate identification and support systems is making girls ‘invisible’ and thus, hindering their access to rights and services, and leaving them at further risk of abuse, exploitation and violence. The Analysis examines basic information on unaccompanied and separated girls situation, their experiences during their journeys and upon their arrival in Europe, and the challenges to their identification. It includes a practical ‘tip sheet’ for frontline workers, outlining 10 signs that a girl might be unaccompanied or separated. Finally, recommendations are proposed for European institutions; authorities in Bulgaria, Italy, Greece and Serbia; and for United Nations agencies.

Confirmed by the findings of the Analysis, along with growing literature, safe spaces for women and girls play a paramount role in facilitating access to essential services, as well as fostering empowerment. Therefore, UNICEF has focused on providing safe spaces for girls and women in the European response and developed a pocket guide to support the design, implementation and evaluation of a girls’ empowerment program with a focus on Serbia and Bulgaria.

These initiatives are part of UNICEF’s ‘Action Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Affecting Refugee and Migrant Women and Children in Greece, Italy, Serbia and Bulgaria’, Funded by the United States Government

Publication date

Pocket Guide 2018

Analysis and Tip Sheet 2020


Pocket Guide: English, Bulgarian and Serbian

Analysis: English, Bulgarian, Greek, Italian and Serbian

Tip Sheet and Poster: English

Making the Invisible Visible
Publication date
English, Bulgarian, Serbian