5 September 2015 – Europe has a brief window of opportunity, before winter approaches, to protect and care for the tens of thousands of children seeking refuge, Unicef said today.

About a quarter of those seeking refuge in Europe this year are children. More than 106,000 children have claimed asylum within the first half of 2015, up 75 per cent from last year.

Many refugee and migrant children in Europe are living in overcrowded and inadequate conditions, where they are at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. Many are sleeping out in the open air; as winter approaches, the health of young children is especially at risk, including from the threat of diseases like pneumonia. Only concerted action to accommodate and care for children now will prevent more deaths and suffering in the months ahead.

With the growing numbers of children making perilous journeys into and across Europe, collective action with a fair distribution of responsibility across the European Union is essential. This should include putting in place a number of immediate safeguards for children and their families:  

• Safe, child-friendly reception facilities as children arrive, with access to health care, psychosocial support, recreation and schooling.

• More resettlement places across Europe and humanitarian visas for children and their families. The processing of asylum cases should be timely, and always focus on the best interests of the children. 

• Stronger commitment to resettlement of refugees from countries in conflict to reduce the likelihood that refugees resort to unsafe routes and people smuggling.

• Stepped-up search and rescue operations at sea and on land. 

• Speeding up family reunification programmes for separated and unaccompanied children.

• Adequate numbers of trained child welfare specialists to care for and counsel children and families.

Such care is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides for the protection of all children – whether on the move from their homes, on the seas, over land, or on the shores of destination countries. 

Unicef urges the international community to address the root causes of this huge movement of desperate children through more vigorous diplomatic efforts to end conflicts, and to provide the required development and humanitarian support in countries of origin.

--ENDS--

Notes for editors:

For further information please contact the Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk