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UNICEF ramps up mobile response for child refugees and migrants in Croatia, as numbers climb

ZAGREB, Croatia/GENEVA, 22 September 2015 – UNICEF has established two mobile units of child protection and welfare experts in Croatia, as an estimated 10,000 women and child refugees and migrants have entered the country in the past week alone.

The mobile units offer creative and recreational activities for children, in addition to fixed child-friendly spaces where children can rest, play and benefit from psychological first aid.

Many of the children are exhausted, confused and traumatized after arduous journeys across several countries. Some have viral infections and are dehydrated. They need rest, play and fresh cooked meals, since they have been eating dry or canned foods for months.

Tens of thousands of people on the move have found alternative routes since Hungary closed its borders with Serbia last Tuesday. Some have arrived at the newly established reception centre in Opatovac, a village on the border with Serbia, after travelling for weeks in extremely arduous conditions.

UNICEF and its partners are on the ground providing humanitarian services at Opatovac and other reception centres in Croatia, where on average 5,000 people have been arriving every day since last Tuesday.

UNICEF’s child friendly spaces also provide baby nappies (or diapers), bottled water and information on breastfeeding. UNICEF has distributed leaflets to warn those crossing into Croatia of the danger of landmines in the border areas, left over from the Balkans war in the 1990s. Over 7,000 leaflets in Arabic and English have been distributed on the border – some by mobile teams.

Croatia is one of the latest countries to see a sudden rise in the number of refugees and migrants seeking a safe passage to west and northern Europe.

Few of the refugees passing through the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Croatia and Serbia register for asylum but instead continue their journey by bus or train with the aim of crossing into western and northern Europe. Many are fleeing violence in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, nearly 90,000 people – about one third were women and children – have been registered at the border at Gevgelija since June this year.

In Serbia, nearly 108,000 people have been registered crossing the border at Presevo over the same period. It is estimated that the actual figures may be twice as high as many people transit through both countries without being registered.

Children already make up a quarter of all asylum seekers in Europe so far this year. In the first seven months of 2015, 133,000 children sought asylum in the European Union, an increase of almost 80 per cent since 2014, according the latest available Eurostat data.


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. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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For further information, please contact:

Kristen Elsby, UNICEF Geneva, Tel: +41 22 909 5286, kelsby@unicef.org 

Sarah Crowe, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 646 209 1590, scrowe@unicef.org




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