child refugees
across Europe

Home > Supporting child refugees across Europe

What’s happening in Europe?

Children are fleeing war and disaster in greater numbers than ever before since World War 2. More than a million people, one in five of them children, arrived on the shores of Europe last year, and the number continues to rise.

Abrupt border closures earlier this year have left thousands of refugee children stranded at transit centres in Greece and other south-eastern European countries, trying to reach family in Europe or countries where they intend to seek asylum, but unable to move.

Video: Why are children fleeing their homes?

If the journey to Europe is so dangerous, why are children and families leaving their homes? In this video, we take a look at some of the reasons why children are being forced to flee.

What is Unicef doing to help children in Europe?

Together with partner organisations we have established child and family support hubs – known as Blue Dot centres because of their distinctive blue dot marking – across Europe to provide help and support to children and families.

Because the situation is changing, the support that we offer is readily adaptable to fit the needs of children and families. The Blue Dot centres provide a range of services, including family reunification, child-friendly spaces, first aid, psychosocial and emotional care, legal counselling, safe spaces for women and children to sleep and outreach social workers.

We’re also active in transit centres for refugees and migrants, providing clean water, sanitation facilities, blankets and clothing for children.

In September 2016, we provided psychosocial support and learning and play activities to around 2,400 children in Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. We also reached 5,600 children with basic supplies and hygiene kits.

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On 20 February 2016, Afghan refugees seek shelter from very cold, wet weather conditions at the Tabanovce reception centre for refugees in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia after being refused entry into Serbia. Hundreds of Afghan refugees, including children and women, are stuck in freezing conditions in Tabanovce in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonian as border changes in the Balkan region create confusion and chaos. UNICEF-branded bags are distributed routinely in Tabanovce to women with small children who need to carry children's items. Photo: Unicef/2016/Georgiev
The plight of these children is neither by their choice nor within their control.

They need protection. They have a right to protection.

Anthony Lake, Unicef Executive Director

What else needs to be done for refugee children?

The response to Europe’s child refugee crisis is challenging. We are working hard to try to reach “invisible” refugee children, who are taking dangerous, illegal routes and facing heightened risks of abuse, exploitation and trafficking.

Unicef is working constantly with governments across Europe to ensure improved conditions for child migrants and refugees. We’re also carrying out important data collection, which analyses the situation of children across Europe so that we know what we need to be providing.