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Providing protection to families on the move in Europe

ChildFund Alliance is partnering with child-focused humanitarian agency Terre des Hommes (TDH) to provide emergency assistance and protection to refugee families arriving in Eastern Europe, focusing in particular on the needs of women and children.

As weather conditions deteriorate with winter approaching, exhausted families who have undertaken the long and dangerous journey from their countries of origin are living in extremely precarious and distressing conditions.

To date, more than four million Syrians are now displaced and likely to remain in exile for the foreseeable future­­. Refugees are most commonly arriving in Europe by travelling the Oriental Mediterranean route. After reaching Turkey, families travel to Greece by boat, and then through Macedonia, Serbia, and further afield to those EU states receptive to asylum seekers. This is a journey of thousands of kilometres, and very treacherous.

TDH has established Safe Spaces at the exit points of Macedonia and Serbia, where families leave one country to travel to the next. These trailers and tents are open 24 hours a day and are staffed by trained social workers, psychologists and related health professionals. At any time of night or day, refugee families can stop and gain some respite from their journey, while also accessing a range of support services from TDH. This includes:

  • emergency non-food items such a hygiene kits and winter clothes. The latter are vital with snowfalls now common;
  • psychological counselling, medical support to those suffering health issues, and recreational activities for children, who have had little chance to play during their long journey;
  • advice on migration rights and risks, maps of the region and communication services to enable refugees to establish links with their family and friends.

ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence says: “With the Syria crisis now in its fifth year, families have little hope that a resolution to the conflict will be found in the short term. Millions have been forced to make the terrible decision to leave everything behind and travel towards safer countries. The majority of families do this in order to keep their children safe from harm.

“For children on the move, the risks are extremely high. Having survived the journey from their home, some children have lost their caregivers during transit and are at risk of of violence, trafficking and exploitation. ChildFund is glad to be able to partner with Terre des Hommes and contribute to global initiatives to respond to this worsening situation.”

ChildFund Alliance and TDH have also joined more than 50 international organisations, including UNICEF, Save the Children and World Vision, in calling for the European Council to ensure that the rights of migrant children are upheld in policy discussions and developments focused on the crisis.

ChildFund Alliance Secretary-General Meg Gardinier says: “Children represent one in four of all asylum seekers in Europe, so we are urging heads of government to ensure that all children on the move are afforded every possible protection.”

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