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Child refugees and migrants suffer most by border restrictions: UNICEF

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On 20 February 2016, refugees from Afghanistan walk towards the Tabanovce reception centre, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, after being refused entry into Serbia. © UNICEF/UN010691/Georgiev

GENEVA, 1 March 2016 – The dire situation unfolding at border points along the Balkan land route, especially in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and in Greece, has left thousands of children stranded, distressed and at risk of poor health and abuse, UNICEF said today.

In the chaos and confusion, children have been forced to sleep outside in the open in squalid conditions, often for over a week, lacking access to basic services, such as showers and the right food. Families risk separation, and children have been stuck outside transit centres or for hours in trains with no clear destination.

“What I am witnessing here is small children under the age of five stuck in between two fences,” said Jesper Jensen, UNICEF emergency field co-ordinator in Gevgelijia, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. “They cannot go forward and they cannot go back – they need shelter and rest and they need to know what lies ahead.”

Due to the rapidly-evolving situation at border transit centres in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, UNICEF has been scaling up its response. These activities include providing access to water and sanitation facilities, especially for children and small babies, and supplying personal hygiene items and food to help children and their families cope amidst distressing conditions.

UNICEF repeated the call for a united, co-ordinated approach by all governments along the primary transit routes and in destination countries. No child should have to spend even one night without shelter or without access to basic services.


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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. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

For further information, please contact:

Sarah Crowe, UNICEF Geneva, Tel: +41 79 543 8029,
Christopher Tidey, UNICEF Geneva, Tel: +41 22 909 5715,