UNICEF Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe: Regional Humanitarian Situation Report #19, 16 January 2017

Report
from UN Children's Fund
Published on 16 Jan 2017

Highlights

  • The past year was a turning point in the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, marked by changing migration trends, more dangerous journeys and shift in the profiles of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe, including women and children. Moreover, in 2016 the number of unaccompanied and separated children crossing the Central Mediterranean doubled compared to the previous year.

  • In 2016, UNICEF reached 95,997 refugee and migrant children, including 10,183 babies and infants with a variety of services, adapted to people on the move during the first quarter of the year, and later on continued structured services for stranded children and children seeking asylum in Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. In addition, 2,404 children at risk were identified and supported in Greece and Turkey, while more than 127,000 children received season-appropriate clothes, shoes and other basic supplies from Turkey to Slovenia. UNICEF’s ongoing winterization efforts throughout Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovenia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, are helping women and children stay warm during the 2016-2017 winter.

  • Major concern for UNICEF as it enters into its third year of response to the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe remain the lack of long-term solutions and safe pathways for refugee and migrant children, further exacerbated in December by heavy snowfall, sub-zero temperatures and insufficient access to warm, safe and protected accommodation for refugee and migrant children and families in Greece, Western Balkans and other parts of Europe.

SITUATION IN NUMBERS

319,390
# of child asylum-seekers in Europe between January and November 2016
(Eurostat,11 January 2017)

93,066
# of child arrivals in Europe by sea between January and December 2016
(UNHCR, 11 January 2017)

25, 846
# of unaccompanied and separated children arriving by sea in Italy between January and December 2016
(UNHCR, 11 January 2017)

860
# of estimated child fatalities at sea between January and December 2016
(IOM, 11 January 2017)

23,700
# of estimated stranded children in Greece and other southeastern European countries as of January, 2017
(UNHCR, 11 January 2017)

UNICEF Revised Appeal 2016
US$ 31,375,228

Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs

The past one year was a turning point in the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, marked by changing migration trends, more dangerous journeys and shift in the profiles of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe, including women and children. In 2016, the number of sea arrivals represents a three-fold decrease compared to 2015 (or a total of 361,709, of whom more than 93,000 children). Yet, more fatalities occurred in the Mediterranean1 , with an estimated 860 child fatalities in 20162 . Moreover, while in 2015 main migration routes to Europe passed through Greece and the Western Balkans, border restrictions and the EU-Turkey statement (March 2016) led to drastic decrease of arrivals but has been followed by revitalisation of the much more dangerous Central Mediterranean route. In 2016, a total of 181,436 people arrived in Italy compared to 176,966 in Greece3 . Although the proportion of children undertaking sea crossings from Libya or Egypt towards Italian shores is much lower than the one in Greece4 , 91 per cent of children arriving through the Central Mediterranean are unaccompanied and separated children (UASC), compared to 17 per cent on the Eastern Mediterranean route. Moreover, in 2016 the number of UASC crossing the Central Mediterranean doubled compared to the previous year (25,846 UASC in 2016 in contrast to 12,360 UASC in 20156 ). Nationalities have also changed during 2016 with more people coming from Nigeria and Eritrea, including children, and fewer people from Syria. Despite the overall reduced influx of refugees and migrants, European countries registered more than a million first-time asylum claims. Of them, 319,390 were child asylum claims - almost as many as in 20157 . Due to border restrictions, introduced in March 2016, at least 23,7008 children remain stranded in Greece, Bulgaria and the Western Balkanssome of them living in extremely inappropriate conditions for months.

2016 saw commendable efforts to increase the protection of refugee and migrant children and women through the adoption of protection standards in reception and accommodation centres, new legislation and policies, as well as humanitarian and development aid for countries of origin. Yet, a lot remains to be done to find long-term solutions and find safe pathways for children fleeing conflict, violence and instability. Limited safe pathways have resulted in increased irregular movements and use of smugglers not only from Libya, but also across southeastern Europe. Due to the high cost and irregular nature of such border crossings, many children risked and/or experienced of abuse and exploitation, often remaining “invisible” and unable to seek for support along the route. There are concerns that the multiplication of returns under the Dublin regulations, including to Greece9 , as well as multiplication of bilateral agreements with third countries in the Mediterranean region will fufther exacerbate this situation.

Since the second half of December 2016, heavy snow and freezing temperatures have gripped much of Central and Eastern Europe and parts of Southern Europe, leading to grave humanitarian consequences. The cold snap has significantly increased the risks of influenza and acute respiratory infections, especially among children under five. Refugee and migrant families have been severely affected as they are least prepared to cope with extreme weather conditions, and often accommodated in shelters that are ill-adapted for winter. Due to the high numbers of UASC arriving in Italy during the last months of the year, Italy has seen its childappropriate reception capacities overstretched, leading to children being placed in emergency accommodation that not sufficiently equipped for the winter. UNICEF is also particularly concerned about some 2,500 children remaining on the Greek islands, and seconds UNHCR’s appeal to accelerate efforts to speed up their registration and moving to the mainland, where sites have been winterized and provide better living conditions.