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NEW YORK, Sept. 11, 2015 /CNW/ - UNICEF welcomes increasing commitments by European leaders to support refugees and migrants – commitments that should now trigger urgent action by all EU Member States to fully protect children.
Children already make up a quarter of all asylum seekers in Europe so far this year. In the first six months of 2015, 106,000 children sought asylum in the EU, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – an increase of almost 75 per cent since 2014.
"Protecting refugee and migrant children from harm, especially as winter approaches, has to be at the very heart of Europe's response," said Yoka Brandt, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, speaking ahead of a key European Union meeting on Monday that will consider next steps in the refugee and migrant crisis. "All these children, who have already suffered so much, have the right to protection and to dignity. Now is the time to make those rights a reality."
Amongst the urgent action needed for children are:
- Keeping family units together at all times, with family tracing and reunification programs in place for children who are arriving unaccompanied or have become separated on the journey.
- Access to asylum procedures that are undertaken always with the best interests of the child as a priority.
- The provision of professional support and advice for children and their families that safeguard children's rights, whatever their legal status, at every step of the process.
- Sufficient financial investment in child protection systems, services and capacities so children are supported by trained child welfare experts, with the same high standard of care provided to children across all Member States.
- Continued efforts to reduce the threat from smugglers and other risks. All children, especially those who are unaccompanied or separated from their families, are vulnerable to exploitation, violence and abuse, in transit and upon arrival in destination countries.
- Designing relocation and resettlement programs and reception facilities that are child-focused; including adequate provision of healthcare, learning and play, and support and counselling to address the traumas children have experienced on their journey.
As more is done to protect and care for children arriving in and crossing Europe, continued international support is also needed for humanitarian and development efforts in countries of origin, along with efforts to end the conflicts and tackle the poverty that are leaving so many families with few options but to undertake perilous journeys in search of safety and opportunity.
Canadians can donate to UNICEF's response at: unicef.ca
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.
UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.
SOURCE UNICEF Canada
Image with caption: "A young girl from Syria holds the hand of an adult while standing in a queue of people waiting to board a train to the border with Serbia, near the town of Gevgelija, on the Greek border. Since July, the rate of refugees and migrants transiting through the country has increased to approximately 2,000 to 3,000 people per day, women and children accounting for nearly one third of arrivals. (CNW Group/UNICEF Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150911_C2186_PHOTO_EN_495069.jpg
For further information: To arrange interviews or for more information please contact: Tiffany Baggetta, UNICEF Canada, 416-482-6552 ext. 8892, 647-308-4806 (mobile), email@example.com