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Winter Operations Cell (Updated February 22, 2016 1:25 PM)

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Arrivals and Departures: Over the weekend, the implementation of registration and screening procedures agreed upon through the Zagreb Joint Statement of the Heads of Police from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria was organised, creating delays and restrictions based on nationality. In Greece, Afghan nationals were denied entry into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, following the same procedure in Serbia. As of midday on 22 February, some 600 Afghan nationals are present in Eidomeni. UNHCR is discussing solutions with authorities related to the group of Afghan nationals currently present in Tabanovce. In addition, people without personal identification documents (passports, IDs, birth or marriage certificates) in addition to the Greek police note, were denied entry into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Condition of People: With the growing numbers of child deaths at sea, UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM issued a call for the enhanced safety of refugees and migrants. An average of two children have drowned every day since September 2015 as their families try to cross the eastern Mediterranean, and the number of child deaths is growing. Since last September, more than 340 children, many of them babies and toddlers, have drowned in the eastern Mediterranean. The total number of children who have died may be even greater.

In Serbia, the Sid Refugee Aid Point was overcrowded and boarding of trains to Croatia delayed due to new verification procedures. In addition to other measures agreed upon jointly by the Chiefs of Police, according to border police in Dimitrovgrad, only Iraqi and Syrian women and children will be registered. Men and Afghan nationals, regardless of age or gender, will not be registered. UNHCR has requested official confirmation of new policy implementation guidelines. 200 refugees and migrants, who were previously not allowed entry into Croatia, walked from the reception centre in Sid towards the Croatian border in an attempt to cross the border on foot. Serbian authorities organized buses to transport them back to the Principovac RAP.

Deaths at Sea: On Chios, a 2 year old Afghan boy was found dead on arrival at the beach on the evening of 20 February. The child’s mother reportedly became separated from other family members as smugglers were forcing passengers onto an overcrowded boat, and was unaware that he was also on the boat until arrival on Chios. This is the second such incident on Chios within the same week. The cause of the child’s death has not yet been determined.