BRUSSELS/ATHENS, 25 January 2017 – A new joint action between UNICEF and the European Union will support more than 6,000 refugee and migrant children, including unaccompanied minors, across Greece. It will be financed through the EU emergency support instrument, which enables the European Commission to fund emergency operations within the EU.

At a time of harsh weather conditions in Greece, the project will help keep refugee and migrant children safe and cared for and give them access to child protection and educational services. This will give them a chance of a new start in their lives after fleeing war, conflict and deprivation, as well as restoring resilience and routine.

“This is the first time that UNICEF and the European Commission work together to provide humanitarian assistance for refugee children within the EU,” said Panayotis Carvounis, Head of the Commission Representation in Athens. “This project will address critical gaps in the response to ensure that children on the move and their families are protected, safe and can regain a sense of normality. As they are amongst the most vulnerable and need the most urgent support, we will put a particular focus on those children who are not accompanied by an adult family member,”

There are an estimated 21,000 refugee and migrant children in Greece. Many of them suffer deep psychosocial distress as a result of their troubled experiences and tough living conditions in refugee sites and lingering uncertainty. Many of them, regardless of their age, have been out of school for two years on average.

“These children have been uprooted through no fault of their own, they have lost homes, lost schooling and some have lost family,” explained Laurent Chapuis, UNICEF Country Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Greece. “This €8.5 million initiative will go a long way to putting back a sense of stability in their unstable lives and provide them with shelter, child protection services and access to formal and non-formal education,”

Particular emphasis will be placed on services for unaccompanied children – 400 of whom will be provided with temporary accommodation while they wait for asylum, family reunification or relocation in Greece or elsewhere in Europe. Another 6,000 vulnerable children and women living in open sites and urban settings will benefit from psychosocial support, case management and referral to specialised child protection services.

Education has been identified as one of the priorities for refugee and migrant children and their parents in Greece. These children have not only lost years of schooling but they have also lost  a strong sense of stability and normalcy in their lives, adding to the already existing stress, anxiety and frustration, depriving them of a caring and learning school environment which can help them cope with the upheaval in their lives.

At the request of the Greek authorities, UNICEF will also focus on the provision of quality non-formal education to almost 5,000 refugee and migrant children. This will include mother tongue and life-skills education for at-risk children, including out-of-school and unaccompanied children. Temporary learning spaces will be set up in open sites and in urban settings including in community centers for all age groups, from 3 to 17 years old. UNICEF will also support the provision of formal education by the Ministry of Education through community mobilisation and material assistance in particular.