UNICEF Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe: Regional Humanitarian Situation Report #6, 22 December 2015

Report
from UN Children's Fund
Published on 22 Dec 2015

Highlights

  • So far this year 972,551 people have arrived by sea in Europe. At least 243,000 of all arrivals are children. More than half of them entered Europe between October and December 2015.

  • The proportion of children registered at the border between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has increased from 9 per cent in June to 35 per cent in the first two weeks of December.

  • Since October, some 60,000 children have rested and played in UNICEF child-friendly spaces in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia. Only during the first half of December a total of 11,916 children used child-friendly spaces.

  • Since October, 10,500 babies and infants used UNICEF mother-and-baby care spaces in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia. Of these, some 1,800 were able to use the spaces during the first half of December.

  • The speed of population movements, selective processing of refugees and migrants based on their nationality at border crossing points, and the limited time spent by children in reception and transit centres are currently the major factors influencing the UNICEF’s response to the crisis.

  • UNICEF still faces a funding gap of US$2,004,185, which is 14 per cent of the total appeal of US$14,019,135 to respond to the crisis. UNICEF is revising its funding needs to better reflect resources needed for scaling up its response to the evolving situation.

SITUATION IN NUMBERS

972,551 # of arrivals in Europe by sea in 2015 (UNHCR, 21 December 2015)
818,654 # of arrivals by sea through Greece in 2015 (UNHCR, 21 December 2015)
35% children of people registered at the border between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the first two weeks of December 2015

Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs

As of 16 December 2015, more than 972,550 people have arrived in Europe by sea according to UNHCR. Some 243,140 of all arrivals are children. Around 94 per cent of them arrived through Greece and less than 6 per cent through Italy. More than half of these children entered Europe between October and December 2015. The tragic accident on 10 December, when a Syrian father lost his 7 children and wife in Aegean waters while trying to reach Europe, is just another reminder of the danger and peril children on the move endure. So far this year, more than 210 children have lost their lives in the Eastern Mediterranean according to IOM. The proportion of children registered at the border between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has increased from 9 per cent in June to 35 per cent in the first two weeks of December. In this two weeks period, an average of 1,076 children took the Western Balkans route every day. As of the end of November 2015, 32,180 unaccompanied children have registered for asylum in Sweden alone, which is 40 per cent higher than the total number who applied for asylum in the whole of the EU in 2014. The relocation process for people in need of international protection from Greece and Italy to other EU member states has yet to pick up in numbers since only 212 relocations have taken place so far (38 of them children) whereas the plan foresees 40,000 relocations. To date, no unaccompanied and/or separated children have been relocated.

The complex political climate in Europe, the lack of effective information sharing systems for refugees and migrants, as well as new physical barriers at the Slovenia/Croatia border and the Greece/the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia border leave refugee and migrant children and their families in great uncertainty about their situation. Insufficient shelter and poorly heated premises in many reception and transit centres, waiting areas on the route as well as transport along the Western Balkans route have also created extremely difficult conditions for children on the move. In this highly complex situation, UNICEF welcomed the agreement between the Ombudspersons from Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 7 December 2015 to advocate with their respective governments to improve reception conditions for refugees and migrants on both sides of the border, and find transport arrangements that would bypass the 4.5 km mud road, which refugees and migrants need to cross currently on foot in order to reach the reception centre in Miratovac, Serbia.

On 7 and 8 December, UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes, Afshan Khan, visited Croatia and Serbia. This was an opportunity for UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes to not only gain first-hand experience of the challenges faced by refugee and migrant children on the move, but also to be a strong voice for children with Governments and partners, and to identify key recommendations for further scaling-up of UNICEF’s response.