• During the first quarter of 2018, some 16,700 refugees and migrants entered Europe through the Mediterranean. This is less than half of registered arrivals during the same period in 2017. One in five of them were children.
• During the first quarter of 2018, 8,930 children benefitted from UNICEF quality child protection support in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia and Germany. In addition, UNICEF reached some 2,630 children with non-formal education activities and almost 650 frontline workers with training on protection standards and other child protection-related topics. Some 490 people benefitted from newly established GBV prevention and response activities.
• In January UNICEF launched its 2018-2019 HAC for the refugee and migrant response to address the needs of children on the move, seeking asylum, stranded or pushed-back. UNICEF is sustaining an active response in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia, Germany and Austria, while expanding preparedness measures in the rest of the Balkans and ensuring continuous advocacy and communication on refugee and migrant children’s rights throughout Europe.
SITUATION IN NUMBERS
16,687 # of arrivals in Europe through Italy, Greece, Spain and Bulgaria between January and March 2018 (UNHCR, 10 April 2018)
1 in 5 # of children among all arrivals in 2018 (UNHCR, 10 April 2018)
18,550 # of child asylum-seekers in Europe between January and February 2018 (Eurostat, 13 April 2018)
22,330 # of estimated stranded children in Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia in 2018 (UNICEF, 31 March 2018)
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
During the first quarter of 2018, some 16,700 refugees and migrants entered Europe through the Mediterranean Routes. This is less than half of registered arrivals during the same period in 2017. On average one in five of all new arrivals are children. The majority of children came through the Eastern Mediterranean Route, where most new arrivals in 2018 are as family groups mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. For UASC however, the majority arrived through the Central Mediterranean Route.
Despite the reduced flows of people and improving asylum procedures across Europe, refugee and migrant children continue to face multiple risks and challenges due to their migration status. Even in countries with high-standard child protection systems in place, there is a clear tendency to give precedence to migration law over international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Some of the most significant challenges currently faced by refugee and migrant children relate to family reunification, long stays in first reception facilities – not only in Greece and Italy, but also Germany and Austria –, as well as limited access to services such as protection, education and information. The situation of unaccompanied adolescent children is particularly concerning as they approach and turn 18 years old, experiencing additional challenges in accessing such services due to their age. In Italy, the current projection is that nearly 60 per cent (9,000) of UASC hosted in reception centres will turn 18 in 2018. There is increasing concern that without education or vocational training opportunities, nor information on their rights and responsibilities, they are at high risk of engaging in exploitative activities.
Even Nordic countries, known for their world-leading record of commitment to child rights, appear to be failing to provide full protection and services for asylum-seeking children. The recent UNICEF report Protected on Paper? An analysis of Nordic country responses to asylum-seeking children found that, despite proper legal and procedural measures being largely in place, implementation lapses expose many children to significant risks in the asylum-seeking process and critical gaps remain in protection, healthcare and education services. Nevertheless, the research also identified a number of progressive and commendable good practices in the protection of refugee and migrant children throughout the asylum process in Nordic countries, which can be replicated elsewhere in Europe.
Other positive developments that marked the first quarter of 2018, included the expansion of safe pathways for refugee and migrant children and other vulnerable groups – e.g. humanitarian evacuations from Libya and the announcement of the new Family Humanitarian Admission Programme in Ireland – and the improvement of the situation of refugee and migrant children on arrival. During the reporting period, all hotspots on Greek islands were declared to be open, thus putting an end to the de-facto detention conditions for newly arrived accompanied, unaccompanied and separated children. In Italy, the Ministry of Interior closed the hotspot in Lampedusa, Sicily, where unaccompanied children and women were kept for weeks with unrelated male adults in overcrowded and unsafe conditions.