The number of children and women seeking refuge in Europe has exceeded that of adult males for the first time since the start of the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe, says Unicef.
Nearly 60 percent of refugees and migrants crossing the border from Greece to Gevgelijia in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are children and women.
Children currently account for 36 percent of those risking the treacherous sea crossing between Greece and Turkey. This figure could be higher however as many children do not declare their age until they have reached their destination.
“The implications of this surge in the proportion of children and women on the move are enormous – it means more are at risk at sea, especially now in the winter, and more need protection on land,” said Marie Pierre Poirier, Unicef’s Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe. “Welfare, protection and health systems need to be strengthened at every step of the way so children and women are not exploited or fall between cracks.”
All children should be prioritized at every step of the way, said Unicef, adding that they need to be fully informed of their rights to claim asylum and to family reunification in Europe. The best interests of each individual unaccompanied child should be examined before any actions are taken.