Refugee and migrant children
One third of the refugees and migrants who have arrived in Europe are children. UNICEF is responding to the needs of all uprooted children at every stage of their journey, urging governments to protect their rights.
Greece, as one of the major entry points into Europe for refugees and migrants, has received over a million individuals since the beginning of 2015, 37% of them children. It is estimated that 44,500 refugee and migrant children currently in Greece, of which over 4,000 are unaccompanied (as of 30 September 2020).
These children and their families have been exposed to a range of protection risks, violence, exploitation and abuse in their country of origin, during the journey, and upon arrival.
Arriving to Greece without family members or guardians, unaccompanied children are particularly exposed. In addition, many children have either been out of school for a number of years or never attended formal education.
Data gaps make it difficult to get a real sense of the scale and patterns of global migration. In many cases data are not regularly collected, and quality is often poor. These problems are many times worse when it comes to data on migrant and forcibly displaced children, given the even greater challenges of measurement. Information comes from a patchwork of sources that provide little comparable global or even regional-level data.
UNICEF’s Refugee and Migrant Response in Greece provides children with a safe environment, a sense of normalcy and access to basic services, while at the same time promoting social integration and inclusion and fostering resilience.
UNICEF’s approach relies heavily on empowering local and national capacity, investing in key priority areas as well as providing essential support to the most vulnerable of the refugee and migrant population.
UNICEF Child and Family Support Hubs give refugee and migrant children and their families a safe space in which they can benefit from a variety of services – psychosocial support, structured play and learning, gender-based violence prevention and response, legal aid, information desk, case management support, referral to health care, and more. In these Hubs, child protection staff may identify and refer those children most at risk to specialized services, including mental health care and counseling.
Τhrough a number of programs, such as Site Management Support (SMS), coordinated by IOM with funding from the European Union and in cooperation with local partners, UNICEF secured access to non-formal education to refugee and migrant children in open accommodation sites across Greece through support lessons and other services.
UNICEF is also providing accommodation and care for unaccompanied children through Supported Independent Living (SIL) apartments where they can access psychosocial support, legal assistance, education, counseling, health care, recreation and social integration activities.
UNICEF’s non-formal education centres are not only supporting children in Greek public schools with homework help and remedial classes, but also providing basic language and life-skills to those outside the formal system.
In addition to direct service delivery, UNICEF is working closely with the government to support the national refugee response in Greece. This includes providing technical support to different ministries on child rights issues, providing input into draft legislation and procedural frameworks, and training frontline and public-sector workers.
Also, reliable, timely and accessible data and evidence are essential for understanding how migration and forcible displacement affect children and their families – and for putting in place policies and programmes to meet their needs.