- By September 2018, some 89,000 refugees and migrants, almost a quarter of whom children, arrived in Europe through the Mediterranean migration routes. Most children arrived in Greece and Spain.
- Between January and September 2018, nearly 16,700 children benefitted from UNICEF specialized child protection support in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Germany. With the start of the school year, 13,810 children were also reached with UNICEF-supported formal and non-formal education activities.
- Some 3,600 people had access to gender-based violence prevention and response services, and close to 2,000 social and other frontline workers were trained on child protection standards and child protection in emergencies.
- Despite notable efforts by national authorities, UN agencies and partners to respond to the needs of children on the move, seeking asylum or stranded, migration continues to be the topic of heated political debates across Europe, resulting in many children remaining in poor reception conditions, including detention, with limited access to protection, services and durable solutions.
- In July 2018, UNICEF revised its funding requirements, now amounting to US$ 34,184,000. This reflects increasing needs in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Situation in numbers
- 89,000: # of arrivals in Europe through Italy, Greece, Spain and Bulgaria between January and September 2018 (UNHCR, 10 October 2018)
- 19,500: Estimated # of children among all arrivals in 2018 (UNHCR, 10 October 2018)
- 115,000: # of child asylum-seekers in Europe between January and August 2018 (Eurostat, 10 October 2018)
- 26,800: # of estimated stranded children in Greece and the rest of the Balkans in 2018 (UNICEF, 10 October 2018)
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
Between January and September 2018, some 89,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe through the Eastern, Central and Western Mediterranean routes (UNHCR)- a two-fold decrease compared to the same period last year. Among them, there were around 19,500 children- 44 per cent were registered on Greek islands, while another 34 per cent were recorded in Spain. Overall, it is currently estimated that 26,800 children are present in the Balkans (24,800 in Greece and another 2,000 mainly in Serbia, Bulgaria and Bosnia and Herzegovina). Nevertheless, since January, national asylum services across Europe registered over 115,000 asylum applications by children (Eurostat).
The increase in arrivals in both Greece and Spain over the summer months led to overcrowding and increased concerns over protection risks and poor reception conditions. As of September, for example, over a fifth of all refugee and migrant children in Greece (5,560) were found on Greek islands, many of whom, including unaccompanied children, babies and infants, in first reception and identification centres. The situation was similar at the Greek border with Turkey at Evros, where over 12,000 arrivals were recorded by September 2018- four times increase compared to the same period in 2017.
Despite notable efforts across Europe, refugee and migrant children in many locations still have insufficient access to services such as health, education, protection (mental health and psychosocial support, guardianship, case-management, foster care arrangements, etc.) and information. With the new school year, many governments made significant efforts in enrolling newly arrived children in formal education. Yet, obstacles persist, especially when it comes to children from pre-primary and upper secondary ages (3-5 years old and 15+ years old), who often fall out of national compulsory education systems.
Migration continues to occupy and polarize the political and public space across Europe, with persisting restrictions to search and rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean, tightening national asylum legislations (e.g. in Italy, Hungary and France) and increasing reports of hate crimes, immigration detention and violent push-backs at borders in both Eastern and Western Europe. Such practices expose children to significant risks of violence, abuse and exploitation, and lead to long-term negative effects on their development and wellbeing.
Additionally, children often lack legal counselling and support, and face long and highly bureaucratic asylum procedures. In Sweden, for example, despite the overall decrease of asylum seekers, the average length of the asylum procedures remains close to one and a half years, and even longer in the case of Afghan and Iraqi applicants for international protection. Children and families also face challenges in accessing other safe pathways and durable solutions, such as relocation, resettlement and family reunification. Meanwhile, returns are high on the political agenda across European states, and concerns remain around the assessment and determination of children’s best interests in such return processes.