Near Gevgelija, a southeast town bordering Greece, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has established a child-friendly space with a mobile team to support women and children fleeing violence in their home countries and moving through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
“The space is providing a safe place for children to rest and play while families complete registration procedures. In addition, the mobile team is screening, identifying and referring children in need of specialized protection services,” UNICEF said in a press release.
Set up within the compounds of a migrant rest area established by the Office if the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a mobile team from the local non-governmental organization LaStrada is helping to reunite children with their families and provide psychosocial support and early childhood development services. UNICEF has procured art, play and educational materials for some 50 children at a time.
According to UNICEF, over the last month, the rate of migrants transiting through the country has increased to 1,500 to 2,000 per day – approximately 30 per cent of whom are women and children. Many are escaping conflict in their home countries of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Children are being shuttled from one authority to another, shunted and risked falling through gaps in laws, policies and practices in transit and host countries – particularly migrant children travelling alone, without parents or adult family members.
“They face a future without education, and limited access to justice and health care. At times, they have been subjected to detention and border control practices that endanger their lives,” UNICEF said.
The agency is urging authorities to recognize and treat all migrant children – regardless of their legal status, religion or affiliation – first and foremost as children with rights, as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It is continuing to monitor the situation on the ground and working with local authorities to ensure their safety. “Children must receive special care and attention as well as non-discriminatory and consistent protection,” UNICEF emphasized.