Between January and September 2017, close to 140,000 refugees and migrants arrived on European shores. Although two-thirds of them came through the Central Mediterranean Route, the Eastern Mediterranean Route has recorded a recent spike in sea crossings to Greece (including 4,239 children in three months) coupled with new arrivals through the Western Mediterranean Route and the Black Sea.
During the first nine months of 2017, UNICEF: supported outreach teams identifying and assisting a total of 18,640 children at risk through outreach activities in Turkey, Greece, Italy, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; supported structured non-formal education for 7,627 children in Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; and, strengthened the capacity of 4,615 frontline workers on child protection across Europe.
Although access to services, and particularly education remains a key challenge across Europe, September brought hope for many stranded refugee and migrant children. A notable progress in enrolment into formal education has been recorded – reaching up to 40 per cent of stranded refugee and migrant children in Greece and the Balkans.
Situation in Numbers
138,360 # of arrivals in Europe through Italy, Greece, Spain and Bulgaria in January-September 2017 (UNHCR, 9 October 2017)
1 in 6 Of all arrivals in January-September 2017 are children (UNHCR, 9 October 2017)
116,790 # of child asylum-seekers in Europe between January and August 2017 (Eurostat, 9 October 2017)
20,850 # of estimated stranded children in Greece, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia,
Croatia and Slovenia in September 2017 (UNICEF, 13 October 2017)
7,774 # of children relocated from Greece and Italy under the EU relocation scheme by mid-September 2017 – 6,972 from Greece and 802 from Italy. (IOM, Italian MoI, 18 September 2017)
UNICEF Appeal 2017 US$ 43,452,000
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
Between January and September 2017, close to 145,000 refugees and migrants arrived on European shores. Two-thirds of them came through the Central Mediterranean Route, yet the summer months were marked by a sharp decrease of arrivals to Italy (mainly due to the Italy-Libya deal and new regulations over search and rescue operations) and a spike of sea crossings through the Eastern Mediterranean. In just three months(July-September), Greece saw over 10,500 arrivals (of whom 4,239 children), compared to 9,272 during the entire first half of the year.
This is coupled with potentially new migration routes appearing through the Western Mediterranean, where 8,558 refugees and migrants (including around 8 per cent of children) arrived between June and August 2017, and from Turkey to Romania through the Black Sea, where nearly 500 refugees and migrants (including many children), arrived in just a few weeks at the end of the summer of 2017. The overall proportion of children among arrivals remains stable (slightly over one in six), yet they make up almost one in three of all asylum seekers across Europe so far this year (116,790 child asylum seekers), as well as stranded population in Greece and the rest of the Balkans (20,850).
Reception conditions remain of concern, particularly on the Greek islands where the refugee and migrant stranded population increased by 27 per cent in September 2017, leading to overcrowding and lack of services in Reception and Identification Centres. There has also been an increase in the number of unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) in protective custody on the islands and other border areas– reaching up to 142 in August (compared to 50-60 in June).
September marked the new school year across Europe, bringing hope for many refugee and migrant children who have often lost valuable months and sometimes years of their education. Since the summer, European governments have taken commendable steps to improve access to education for refugee and migrant children and reduce legal and practical barriers. As a result, there has been a notable progress in enrolment of refugee and migrant children into formal education – reaching up to 40 per cent of stranded refugee and migrant children in Greece and the Balkans.
During the reporting period, UNICEF issued two reports on the situation of refugee and migrant children on the move through the Mediterranean: ‘Children on the Move in Italy and Greece’ (in partnership with REACH-IMPACT) and ‘Harrowing Journeys’ (in partnership with IOM). According to the findings, less than half of unaccompanied children on the Central Mediterranean Route left home with the idea to come to Europe (mainly with the aim to access better education and human rights), and in almost one third of cases the main push factor was violence, including violence at home. Four in every five adolescents travelling alone reported direct abuse, exploitation and trafficking practices along the Central Mediterranean route and unanimously spoke of their stay in Libya as the most traumatising part of their journey. Moreover, migrant and refugee children originating from Sub-Saharan Africa appear to be far more likely to experience exploitation and trafficking than those from other parts of the world.
Children and youth traveling alone or over longer periods – often due to limited resources, requiring them to work along the journey – as well as those possessing lower levels of education, are also highly vulnerable to exploitation at the hands of smugglers and criminal groups over the course of their journeys.
On 26 September, the EU Emergency Relocation Scheme came to an end after two years of efforts to alleviate the asylum burden from the two most heavily affected frontline Mediterranean countries, Italy and Greece. Due to multiple requirements and challenges linked to its implementation, the scheme relocated barely 18 per cent of the original 160,000 quota (29,824 people). This includes some 9,600 children from Greece and Italy, including 350 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC). In the absence of other safe legal pathways, many refugee and migrant children have been on the move in the Balkans, as well as in Italy and France. The situation in Ventimiglia is particularly alarming, with some 200 UASC sleeping in the open.