Refugee and Migrant Response
Children represent one quarter of all refugees and migrants who came to Europe. UNICEF responds to needs of every child on the move at every phase of their journeys and calls for governments to protect their rights
Since 2015, more than 1.5 million refugees and migrants have passed through Serbia, among whom between 8 and 28 per cent were women and girls and between a quarter and a third were children (out of which 10–50 per cent were unaccompanied and separated children).
Despite the de-facto closure of the Balkan route in early 2016, refugees and migrants continue to arrive in Serbia, mainly from North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Bosnia and Herzegovina with increasingly limited legal options to continue the journey towards countries of destination.
UNICEF continues to advocate that all child rights be comprehensively respected and fulfilled in line with the Convention of the Child's Rights (CRC) to respond to the needs of children on the move in Serbia through systems strengthening, technical assistance, capacity-building, support for service delivery and supporting coordination.
Programme Area Goals
UNICEF is working in partnership with the Government and civil society to ensure all refugee and migrant women, girls and boys in Serbia, and especially the most vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied and separated children, adolescents on the move, and women and girls at risk of gender-based violence, benefit from timely, equitable and coordinated systems that ensure their protection, development, access to services and social inclusion:
- The child protection system is strengthened to prevent and respond to all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse, including gender-based violence, as well as to provide appropriate care arrangements for unaccompanied and separated children,
- Women, adolescent girls and all children on the move safely and equitably access quality high-impact maternal, newborn and child health services, including immunization and nutrition services,
- Children and adolescents have equitable access to quality, inclusive learning opportunities.
Refugee/Migrant Response Plan Target
In order to support COVID-19 prevention and impact mitigation in 2021, UNICEF aims to:
- Reach 1,100 children with quality child protection support,
- Provide 1,500 women, girls and boys with gender-based violence prevention and response services,
- Ensure 500 children are benefiting from a strengthened and more inclusive formal education system,
- Enable access to mother and baby care and nutrition services for 300 children under 5 years,
- Provide 2,000 children and women with culturally appropriate basic supplies, including clothes, baby hygiene items and dignity kits.
Traveling to their expected country of destination, women and children on the move are often physically exhausted, psychologically traumatized and in need of medical and protection assistance. In Serbia, refugee and migrant children and women are accommodated in collective centres that ensure basic needs; however, further access to health, education and other services can be impeded by language, cultural and social barriers.
Despite continuous efforts, there are still ongoing concerns about unaccompanied children, as they are at particularly high risk of violence, abuse and other problems, and require timely best-interest assessment and determination, adequate age assessment, and specific support throughout the case management process. The needs of refugee and migrant youth, especially adolescent girls and boys, have also largely been unmet up to now, as they require tailored approaches focusing on empowerment, skills building and participation.
Significant efforts have been made towards timely enrolment of refugee and migrant children in primary education. However, a smaller number attend secondary or higher education, and school attendance figures drop further when it comes to girls. Tailored approaches are needed to ensure access to learning opportunities for these groups.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs and the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration of the Republic of Serbia, UNICEF works on strengthening child protection systems through supporting sectoral coordination, providing technical assistance and enhancing competences of all service providers for quality and timely care of children.
Through strategic emergency partnerships, we continue to ensure essential protection services are available for the hard-to-reach and most vulnerable groups. These services include gender-sensitive and age-appropriate cultural psychosocial activities, identification and referral to specialized services for children on the move and unaccompanied and separated children, and safe spaces promoting women’s and girls’ skills, knowledge and resilience.
UNICEF supports the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, school administrations, local institutions and partners to enrol refugee and migrant children and promote regular school attendance and non-formal education activities.
We provide technical support on nutrition and early childhood development to other institutions and actors, including training and developing appropriate information materials in a range of languages for refugees and migrants and promoting a model of mother and baby corners for delivery of health and nutrition services.