31 July 2023

Fulfilling the rights of children without parental care displaced from 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: Establishing, recognizing and monitoring legal responsibility, support, and assistance arrangements for children. 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.   Access to international protection which is appropriate to the individual circumstances of the child.   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.  
15 June 2023

Reintegration of children affected by armed conflict in Syria to Western Europe

The repatriation of European children and families from camps and detention facilities in Northern Syria and Iraq has been the topic of an ongoing and urgent debate. Yet, there has been relatively little documentation of the experiences of these children and social workers in the context of Western Europe.  To better understand the reintegration of children from Syria and Iraq to Western Europe and take stock of the experiences and practices around returns that have taken place in recent years, in 2020 UNICEF began gathering data and documenting the experiences of frontline workers supporting reintegration in Western European countries. This included informant interviews with social workers who were providing direct support to children returning to countries including Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom – which accounted for around 87 per cent of the overall number of European children who were identified in camps in North-East Syria in 2020. Jointly, the front-line professionals have supported almost 250 child returnees in child protection systems that share common frameworks, comparable resources, and a number of similar social and cultural dynamics. This paper provides an aggregate picture of reintegration practices, experiences and lessons in the context of Western Europe. It lays the foundation for a dialogue among social workers, mental health and psychosocial support service providers, and other front-line actors about the progress, lessons learned, and challenges to date.
12 June 2023

Repatriation and reintegration of children affected by conflict in Syria and Iraq to Central Asia

Since 2019, more than 1,100 children have been repatriated to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan from camps and places of detention in Syria and Iraq. These children are victims of armed conflict. While in camps and detention facilities, they were deprived of liberty, education, protection and other basic services, making them vulnerable to preventable illness and disease, and exposing them to exploitation and violence. To support Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan with gender responsive and human rights-based repatriation and reintegration of these children and their caregivers returning from Syria and Iraq, the European Commission Service for Foreign Policy Instruments initiated a joint EU-UN programme. In partnership with UNICEF, UN Women and these four Central Asian countries, the programme worked towards ensuring family-based care, education, mental health and psychosocial support, and other services to help children’s recovery and development. UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Office commissioned the development of a Compendium of Promising Practices to document the positive approaches taken by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to promote the repatriation and reintegration of children into their communities of origin. The compendium contributes to the commendation of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan for the commitment to children’s rights demonstrated by undertaking large-scale repatriation efforts, serving as an example to the international community.
05 August 2022

Breastfeeding boost for moms and babies in Ukraine

Every time six-month-old Yehor is breastfed, he uses his tiny fingers to clasp his mother Yevheniya's hand. Then he smiles up at his mother. "In my view, breast milk is not only about food for a baby, it's about outer-space communication between mom and baby," says 29-year-old Yevheniya. Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, breastfeeding has…, “We realised it was dangerous to stay”, Yevheniya gave birth to Yehor in february. She and her husband had spent the previous few  months furnishing a house in Mariupol, buying children's clothes, and choosing a stroller and a playpen. So, when the first explosions occurred in Mariupol on February 24, Yevheniya quickly packed two bags – one for the family and another for the baby. "We…, “I was following recommendations”, When her breast milk supply suddenly decreased due to illness, lack of sleep, high temperature and stress, Yevheniya began reading materials on this topi c from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). “I was following recommendations aimed to help in such cases, such as holding the baby next to my breast and keeping hydrated. I was also…, “My biggest joy today is my son”, The family now lives in an apartment in Kyiv that still bears the scars of a missile attack. Yevheniya often wakes up in the middle of the night – not only because of Yehor’s crying, but because of air raid sirens. However, she hopes for a better future for her son and is determined to provide him with safety, comfort, and healthy food. "My…