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Humanitarian Action for Children 2020 - 2021 - Refugee and migrant crisis in Europe - Revision 1 (July 2021)

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Between January-June 2021, over 55,000 refugees and migrants (24 per cent children) arrived in Europe, a trend likely to continue for the rest of 2021. Italy registered over 20,000 new arrivals in the first half of 2021, overstretching the existing resources. Children remain highly vulnerable, with 88,000 children residing in camps and on the move requiring urgent care and protection in 2021.

Despite the gains made in recent years, humanitarian needs remain significant and capacities to respond are inadequate due to COVID-19 pandemic. Access to quality, appropriate health, nutrition, protection and education services and basic supplies is critical.

UNICEF requires US$47.8 million to support the humanitarian needs of refugee and migrant population. This signifies an increase from the initial requirement of US$36.4 million as costs related to UNICEF’s lead role in WASH, child protection, and non-formal education increased, while the target remained the same .


While the COVID-19 pandemic initially curtailed arrivals in 2020, the easing of related border controls and onset of more favorable weather conditions in spring have prompted the arrival of increasing numbers of people into Europe in 2021, an upward trend likely to continue throughout the warmer periods (August - October). Over 55,000 refugees and migrants (24 per cent children) arrived between January and June 2021. Italy registered almost a three-fold increase in new arrivals with over 20,000 being recorded in the first half of 2021. Greece observed a decreasing trend with 3,606 by end of June but is currently hosting the largest caseload (120,000, including 42,000 children, 3,328 who are unaccompanied). In the first half of 2021 new arrivals were registered in Serbia (nearly 21,000) , Bosnia and Herzegovina (nearly 7,500), Bulgaria (nearly 2,000) and Montenegro (nearly 1,400). With limited pathways to settling in destination countries, most will remain in tenuous conditions. In 2021, 88,000 children in camps and on the move need urgent care and protection.

Capacities for reception, identification, protection and integration, particularly alternative care options for unaccompanied children, remain insufficient. Vulnerable children, young people and families are living in unsafe and overcrowded accommodations, unable to access protection, and legal guardianship. Furthermore, COVID-19-related lockdowns and movement restrictions have generated overcrowded reception facilities, disrupted provision of critical services, restricted asylum procedures and family reunification, and continue to create challenges in 2021 with resurgence cases, including new variants.

The fire in Moria Centre, Greece, in September 2020 left 12,000 refugees and migrants (4,200 children) homeless, requiring UNICEF, in cooperation with the Greek authorities and relevant humanitarian actors, to lead a comprehensive WASH response on Lesvos island. On the mainland, while the Greek Government is positioning to take over ongoing services, there remains need for funding support to ensure critical child protection and non-formal education services in open accommodation sites.

In Italy, unprecedented surges in arrivals in 2021 have overstretched resources leaving refugees and migrants, including children, in overcrowded facilities with limited or no access to basic services in arrivals/transit centers in Apulia, Calabria, Lampedusa and Sicily and informal settlements in Rome. In accordance with official regulations to contain COVID-19, vulnerable migrants, including children, must adhere to mandatory quarantine with adults and families confined on boats at sea and vulnerable groups, including unaccompanied children, housed in quarantine centres.