European border restrictions endanger refugees, migrants, especially children: UN
Nov 23, NY: European restrictions on refugees and migrant movements after last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, including national profiling, are endangering many, especially children, as the bite of winter takes hold, United Nations agencies warned, calling on Governments to provide more reception centres and decent accommodation.
“As long as this robust reception and screening capacity does not exist, the only ones who are in control of the situation are the smuggling networks whose unscrupulous activities have already cost the lives of nearly 3,500 people in the Mediterranean Sea this year,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
He said in a joint statement with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that, “The current situation, if not addressed quickly and comprehensively, will lead to a fragmentation of the routes and additional challenges,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told the regular news briefing in Geneva in a statement on the refugee influx, which has seen hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans pour into Greece from Turkey.
Much more has to be done to crack down on smugglers and traffickers – but in ways that allow their victims to be protected, he said, noting that in the last couple of days, Governments have instituted various restrictions against movements from Greece through the Western Balkans and further northwards, including profiling people the basis of nationality. “This is becoming increasingly untenable from every point of view – humanitarian, legal, and also safety related, not least in light of falling temperatures and the risks for children and others with specific needs,” he stressed.
The measures are having a domino effect, leaving in total limbo refugees and migrants stranded at border points. UNHCR and IOM have been working with Governments to increase reception capacity in the affected countries, and install protection against winter conditions by providing blankets, winter clothing and other key items for basic needs.
UNICEF is supporting child friendly spaces in reception centres at border crossings along the Balkan routes, mobilizing for winter and working with governments to strengthen child protection systems for all children, including refugee and migrant children.
This will help identify those who in need of protection, those to be relocated to other European countries, and people who do not qualify for refugee protection and for whom effective and dignified return mechanisms have to be put in place.
The Oslo Times