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UNICEF Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe: Humanitarian Situation Report #36 (January – June 2020)

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Highlights

• A total of 26,800 refugees and migrants (19% children) have arrived in Europe through the Mediterranean since January. With COVID-19, the number of arrivals decreased almost by a quarter, compared to the same period in 2019. This is the case in all countries except Italy where, arrivals have increased partly as a result of the fighting in Libya.

• 19,600 children in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro accessed mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), child protection case management and referral, while 13,850 attended formal and 4,425 non-formal education activities. Almost 5,270 women, girls, boys and men benefitted from gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response.

• The situation of the refugee and migrant population deteriorated further due to the pandemic. In several countries, the lockdown, border closures and pushbacks on international borders resulted in overcrowded reception facilities with limited access to services. While UNICEF and partners moved some activities online, in-person provision of health care, immunization, nutrition counselling, and training of frontline workers was affected. Access to asylum procedures and family reunifications were impacted.

• Refugees and migrants have been increasingly subject to stigma and discrimination. Children, including unaccompanied and separated children (UASC), have become more exposed to psychological distress, sexual abuse and violence. Emergency placements in cases of violence have been made more difficult with movement restrictions and the unavailability of statutory actors.

• At regional level, inter-agency advocacy to relocate 1,600 UASC from Greece to other EU Member States was initiated. The EC-led scheme aims at reducing health and protection risks in reception facilities while lessening the burden on the Greek child protection system. Swift actions of countries like Luxembourg, Germany, Ireland, Portugal and Finland, in relocating children despite the COVID-19 constraints, helped to inspire more relocation pledges.

Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs

Following an initial decrease in the number of refugees’ and migrants’ arrivals in Europe, the easing of the COVID-19 related border control measures has resulted in an increase across the region in quarter two. Almost 20 per cent of the 26,800 refugees and migrants who have entered the region since January were children. Countries of origin are Afghanistan (12.7 per cent), Syria (10.9 per cent), Algeria (10.5 per cent), Tunisia (7.3 per cent), and Côte d'Ivoire (6.9 per cent)1. It is estimated a total of 220,350 refugees and migrants live in the six countries, 24 per cent children. Over 10,400 of these children are UASC. Fighting in Libya has led to an increase in the number of hazardous crossings to Italy compared to the same period in 2019 (7,330 versus 2,708).

COVID-19 related lockdown and border closures in March-April translated into congested reception facilities making hygiene measures and physical distancing difficult. Refugee and migrant populations were included in COVID-19 response plans especially through risk communication and community engagement, leading to limited transmission of the virus. Despite the transition to online service delivery and training modalities, service provision has been affected. Access to asylum, education, MHPSS, case management, specialized care for unaccompanied children, health, immunization and nutrition counselling, have all been hindered, potentially leaving behind the most vulnerable, such as girls moving alone. In this context, refugees, migrants and frontline workers have reported increased cases of VAC and GBV