UNICEF, UNHCR set up new hubs for EU migrants
Thousands of families travelling across Europe from Syria will have access to 20 new special child and family support centres that are being set up by UNICEF and UNHCR as part of the latest efforts to scale up the level of protection offered to vulnerable groups travelling on the most frequently used migration routes in Europe. “We are concerned about the welfare of unaccompanied boys and girls on the move and unprotected across Europe, many of whom have experienced war and hardship in making these journeys alone,” said Volker Türk, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection. “The hubs will play a key role in identifying these children and providing the protection they need in an unfamiliar environment, where they may be at risk.” The centres, called 'Blue Dots', represent further allocation of financial, healthcare, and other resources to the EU migrant crisis, and will provide essential services and counselling in a safe setting where children will also be encouraged to play. Those at risk of sickness, trauma, violence, exploitation and trafficking will be given priority. The first centres are now operational or are scheduled to open at strategic locations in Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. All 20 hubs are expected to be operational within the next three months, and will create a space for National Red Cross Societies and other partners to administer their services. Crucially, the 'Blue Dot' hubs come at a time when women and children account for two thirds of those crossing to Europe. In February, women and children accounted for nearly 60 percent of sea arrivals compared to 27 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, last year, more than 90,000 unaccompanied or separated children registered and applied for asylum or were in care in Europe, mostly in Germany and Sweden. Services available at the 'Blue Dot' hubs will include:
  • Restoring family links–?services provided by the Red Cross and Red Crescent network;
  • Family reunification;
  • Child friendly space and dedicated mother and baby/toddler spaces;
  • Private rooms for counselling;
  • Psychosocial first aid;
  • Legal counselling;
  • Safe spaces for women and children to sleep;
  • Outreach social workers;
  • Information desk with Wi-Fi connectivity.
By Adam Pitt
Photo: UNICEF / Kljajo