The refugee and migrant crisis
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.
Refugee and migrant response
Despite the de-facto closure of the Balkan route in early March 2016, a constant stream of refugees and migrants continues to arrive in the Republic of Serbia – mainly from Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina – with strong support from cross-border smuggling and trafficking networks.
Throughout 2018, the monthly number of stranded refugees and migrants in Serbia fluctuated around 4,000.
However, UNICEF and partners estimate that in 2019 around 18,000 people in need will transit through Serbia – one in three being a child.
Child protection main issues
When entering the country, women and children on the move are physically exhausted, psychologically traumatized, and many need medical and protection assistance.
Refugee and migrant children, and women, are accommodated in collective centres that provide basic needs; however, they have limited access to safe places to rest and thrive, receiving only irregular specialized and community-based psychosocial support.
Referral to specialized services, including for sexual violence, is limited, and children face several linguistic, cultural and social barriers to access them. The needs of adolescent girls and boys
have also largely been unmet up to now.
There are concerns in relation to unaccompanied and separated children (UASC), who require best-interest assessment and determination, and specific support throughout the case management process.
Most children attend primary school; however, a smaller number attend secondary or higher education; when it comes to girls those figures drop further.
Finally, nutrition of children, in particular infants, is still an area of concern.
Core strategic priorities
UNICEF’s response focuses on the overall well-being of all refugee and migrant children: i) identifying the most vulnerable and at risk; ii) referring them to social workers and further specialized care; iii) enhancing competences of all service providers for quality and timely care; and iv) providing meaningful services to UASC.
UNICEF implements dedicated programming on gender-based violence (GBV) in emergencies; establishing safe spaces for women and girls, and documenting good practices to ensure that women and girls are at the centre of GBV prevention and response interventions.
GBV and sexual exploitation, including against boys, remains a major concern.
UNICEF supports school administrations, local institutions and partners to enrol and promote regular attendance of refugee and migrant children in Serbian schools, and promotes non-formal education activities. In 2019, dedicated efforts are being made in evaluating learning outcomes, engaging parents, and ensuring secondary school enrolment and retention, especially for UASC and girls.
Health and nutrition
UNICEF’s response supports nutrition and health services to mothers and babies through Mother and Baby Corners, and plays a pivotal role in providing technical support on nutrition and early childhood development to other institutions and actors.
UNICEF's integrated approach
In 2019, UNICEF focuses on applying an integrated approach: mainstreaming GBV into all programmatic activities; promoting joint and integrated capacity development initiatives; and advocating that all child rights are comprehensively respected and fulfilled in line with the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC).
UNICEF provides advocacy, technical assistance and protection guidance to a variety of stakeholders (frontline NGOs as well as institutions).
UNICEF plays a paramount role in the coordination of the Child Protection Working Group, supporting the GBV Working Group, as well as in leveraging and advocating with other agencies to allocate resources and implement initiatives in protection.
In the education, health and nutrition sectors, UNICEF Serbia is a technical essential actor, disseminating guidance and acting as a technical resource and knowledge management hub to partners and institutions.
UNICEF actively participates in and promotes partnerships with government institutions, United Nations agencies, including UNHCR, UNFPA, IOM and WHO, and civil society actors and the private sector.
UNICEF continues to have strategic emergency partnerships to ensure essential services are available for the hard-to-reach and most vulnerable groups, including:
Women Centre: Established within a wider Community Centre for refugees and migrants, the centre offers recreational and cultural activities, vocational training and GBV specialized services, including material assistance and psychosocial support. The centre includes a Child Friendly Space and a Mother and Baby Corner.
Immediate emergency support to women and children on the move: Women, girls and children on the move receive lifesaving and real-time information about child protection and GBV services, as well as overall information about accessing assistance in Serbia.
UASC identification and assistance: Gender sensitive and age appropriate cultural mediation services are offered to children on the move, as well as to UASC accommodated in reception and asylum centres. Referral to specialized services and documentation of vulnerable cases is also ensured.
Health and nutrition for babies and their caregivers: Mothers and young children access comprehensive Mother and Baby Corner related activities to ensure their healthy and safe development, and that mothers have access to counselling and advice. A Mother and Baby Corner is also a functional entry point for GBV disclosure and child protection mainstreaming.
UNICEF designs its emergency interventions to ultimately strengthen national and local protection systems by working together with governments, local authorities and institutions at central and municipal levels.
We support key institutional actors to develop and disseminate policies, elaborate referral pathways and standard operating procedures, and promote capacity development initiatives.
Finally, UNICEF further supports national institutions’ and state authorities’ accountability for coordinating and responding to humanitarian needs in an efficient and timely manner.