The trend of increased numbers of refugees and migrants on the Central Mediterranean route continues in 2017 - more than 80 per cent of all sea arrivals during the first 6 weeks of the year were registered in Italy.
Major risks confronted by refugee and migrant children and women along this route remain to be detention, extortion, gender-based violence, abuse, exploitation and drowning at sea.
In January 2017, UNICEF –supported outreach teams identified 1,793 children at risk in Turkey and across Europe, while 739 children, including adolescents, joined structured education activities in Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In addition, 256 babies and infants accessed IYCF services, and 1,438 children received culturally appropriate basic supplies in Serbia and Italy.
As UNICEF enters into its third year of response to the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, in January it launched its Humanitarian Appeal for 2017 requesting a total of US$ 43,452,000 for continued interventions in response to this complex crisis.
In line with the inter-agency Refugee and Migrant Plan for Europe, UNICEF interventions will help government institutions and civil society organizations address the immediate, as well as middle to long-term needs of refugee and migrant children by sustaining service provision while strengthening national capacities in the areas of child protection, education and child rights monitoring.
SITUATION IN NUMBERS
# of arrivals in Europe through Italy, Greece and Spain in January 2017
(UNHCR, 17 February 2017)
26 per cent
children among arrivals in Italy and Greece in January 2017
(UNHCR, 17 February 2017)
# of child asylum-seekers in Europe between January and December 2016
(Eurostat, 8 February 2017)
# of child arrivals in Europe through Greece, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria in 2016
(UNHCR, 9 February 2017)
# of unaccompanied and separated children arriving in Europe through Greece, Italy and Bulgaria in 2016
(UNHCR, 11 January 2017)
# of estimated stranded children in Greece and other southeastern European countries as of January, 2017
(UNHCR, 31 January 2017)
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
In January 2017, children made up 26 per cent of the 6,8561 refugees and migrants, who arrived in Europe through Italy, Greece and Spain. According to latest available data, out of the 381,892 refugees and migrants who arrived in Europe last year through the Mediterranean and by land through Bulgaria, 98,688 were children (including 34,500 unaccompanied or separated children). This number represents less than one per cent of all children, affected by war, violence and instability in top countries of origin (Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Nigeria). During the same period, 386,635 first-time asylum claims were registered by children across Europe2- more than two thirds of them were in Germany, followed by France, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden.
The trend of increased numbers of refugees and migrants on the Central Mediterranean Route, observed during the second half of 2016, has continued in 2017. Out of the 6,856 sea arrivals in Europe in January 2017, 65 per cent were registered on Italian shores. Although the proportion of children among arrivals in Italy is relatively small, there are significant concerns with major risks faced by refugees and migrants (among whom children are the most vulnerable) along the route through North Africa and the Mediterranean, which include drowning at sea, detention, extortion, gender-based violence, abuse and exploitation by smugglers and armed groups.
National authorities and agencies continue to improve the reception conditions for refugee and migrant children in Greece, Italy, Germany and across the Balkans. Yet many refugee and migrant children have been living for months, sometimes a year, in reception and accommodation centres, which do not provide age and gender-appropriate shelter, protection and services. Children and families’ mental health and overall well-being has been affected by long waits and an uncertain future due to backlogs in asylum and relocation procedures.
Despite the recent acceleration of relocation of refugees and migrants from Greece and Italy, by 31 January only 3,048 children, including 233 UASC3, have been relocated from Greece and Italy (only 1 from Italy). According to the European Commission, there are many challenges related to the relocation of UASC, one of the major ones relating to married children (particularly when they are under the age of 17) since many Member States have legal obstacles to allow the relocation of this category of separated children (e.g. the adult marrying a minor may be sentenced). As a consequence, they reject relocation requests submitted.
With the improvement of weather conditions in the past few weeks, irregular cross-border movements increased again, leading to border incidents and further complication of the situation in Serbia (currently hosting 7,900 refugees and migrants, including 3,103 children).