Children face greater risks a year after refugee route to Europe closed: UNICEF

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Although she used to be in Grade 6, 12-year old Ayesh, who fled to Turkey from the Idlib Governorate of Syria does not attend school. Photo: UNICEF/Shehzad Noorani

Children seeking asylum in Europe are facing greater risks of deportation, detention, exploitation and deprivation a year after a main refugee route was closed and a deal over migration between the European Union (EU) and Turkey was passed, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned.

The so-called “Balkan border” includes countries like Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia that lie between Greece and northern Europe.

Jocelyne Sambira reports.

The official EU-Turkey Statement states that all irregular new migrants crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands will be forcibly returned to Turkey. 

The agreement was reached in March last year. 

Lucio Melandri, UNICEF senior emergency manager for refugee and migrant crisis, recently visited a number of refugee sites in Greece. 

“There are many unseen scars. The psychological distress of these children that are remaining stranded. They do not see an opportunity… a perspective to join their families. It is having a huge impact over their psychological status. That will have consequences for a long lifetime.” 

Instead of stemming the migrant and refugee flow, border closures in the Balkans and the EU-Turkey deal, have led to children and families taking matters into their own hands and embarking on even more dangerous and irregular routes with smugglers. 

This year, nearly 3,000 refugees and migrants – about a third of them children –arrived in Greece despite the full implementation of the EU-Turkey deal and strict border control. 

Many continue to slip through into countries like Bulgaria and Hungary. 

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations. 

Duration: 1’13″

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