Following several years characterised by a continuous increase in migrant arrivals in Europe, summer 2015 marked an unprecedented spike in migration, with thousands of asylum seekers travelling through the Western Balkans on a daily basis until the closure of the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in March 2016 and the implementation of the EU Turkey deal on 20 March 2016 (REACH, 2016). Tens of thousands of migrants were consequently stranded in Greece, with new arrivals entering Greece on a lower but continuous rate. Whilst new arrivals are largely confined to the islands, migrants on the mainland live between open sites, urban informal settlements and shelters for vulnerable individuals, including unaccompanied and separated children (UASC).
While officially around 47,000 migrants live in designated open temporary reception structures in well-documented substandard living conditions (Oct 2016), an unknown number of individuals live in urban areas, incl. squats, parks and abandoned buildings. Of particular concern is the status of unaccompanied minors (UAM) arriving and/or stranded in these centres, in informal urban areas: about 1,100 accommodation places are available and filled in shelters and transit centres across Greece, while more than 1,600 are still on waiting lists as of October 2016 (UNHCR/EKKA).
In order to gather a better understanding of the profile of children currently stranded in Greece, their vulnerability, needs and intentions, REACH is supporting UNICEF through the following activities:
- In designated open temporary reception structures and shelters for unaccompanied minors: leveraging on UNICEF access, REACH will conduct regular updates on the profile and vulnerabilities of child migrants in open sites and of unaccompanied children in shelters;
- In and around key urban centres: REACH teams based in Athens and Thessaloniki will conduct regular assessments of the vulnerability and situation of child migrants, including their profile, current coping mechanisms and vulnerabilities, and intentions;
- Ad hoc assessments outside of reception centres: REACH will also maintain the flexibility to conduct rapid assessments outside of the reception centres, such as in urban areas, on priority thematic for UNICEF and other humanitarian stakeholders.