UN sets up 20 protection spots for children, families on Balkan route

The United Nations are setting up a string of protection centres for unaccompanied children and families who are migrating from Greece through the Balkans, the UN Refugee Agency and the UN children's fund said Friday.

The 20 hubs would serve as safe spaces where children and parents could play, rest and receive counselling, the UN aid agencies said, adding that children who are travelling alone are at risk of sickness, violence and trafficking.

In addition, the centres would serve to reunite children and their parents, as many families become separated amid chaos at borders or when boarding buses, a UNICEF spokesman said in Geneva.

"The lives of children on the move have been turned upside down, they've faced turmoil and distress every step of the way," said UNICEF's European refugee coordinator, Marie-Pierre Poirier.

Four hubs are already operational on Greek islands and on both sides of the Greek-Macedonian border. Others are to be opened in the coming three months in these two countries, as well as in Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

Last year, more than 90,000 unaccompanied or separated children applied for asylum in Europe, mostly in Germany and Sweden, according to UN figures.

Of the people who are currently crossing the sea from Turkey to Greece, 60 per cent are woman and children.

Last update: Fri, 26/02/2016 - 13:53
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