World Vision is urging the European Union’s interior and justice ministers to make a commitment to ensure the safety and wellbeing of refugee children at its emergency meeting in Brussels on September 14.
“The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, signed and ratified by all EU member states, specifically state that everyone has the right to seek asylum and that refugee children in particular, must be awarded special protection,” says Deirdre de Burca, World Vision Brussels Director of Advocacy. “It is imperative the European Union upholds this promise to protect children fleeing the war in Syria. There must be a unified and humane EU policy on the reception of refugees and asylum seekers.”
More than 137,000 people crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe during the first six months of this year; some 2,000 died attempting the journey. The ‘Balkan Byway’ which is perceived to be less perilous, is fast becoming the alternative route. Thousands have flooded into Serbia hoping to reach Hungary; a major entry point into the EU.
“The number of children making these journeys by themselves is hugely concerning to World Vision. They’ve either been separated from their families or their caregivers have been unable to afford to go with them,” says Conny Lenneberg, World Vision’s Regional Director for the Middle East and Eastern Europe. “There’s an estimated 8,000 unaccompanied refugee children in Serbia alone right now. We know from experience they are vulnerable to trafficking, forced labor, prostitution and other forms of violence. Further, with Serbia’s harsh winter fast approaching, they lack adequate food, clothing and shelter”.
Without immediate action to end the violence in Syria by parties to the conflict, members of the Security Council and those governments with real political, diplomatic and financial leverage, more refugees will continue to flow into Europe.
“The images coming out of Europe are extremely distressing. There are desperate scenes in refugee host countries bordering Syria too. Since 2011, over four million people have sought refuge in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. These places have extended immense hospitality to Syrian refugees not without impact to their own economies and social services,” says Wynn Flaten, World Vision’s Syria Crisis Response Director.
Further funding is urgently needed to ensure Syrians can seek safety and security as soon as they arrive in refugee host countries. With international response plans only around 37 per cent funded, due in part to unmet commitments by donors, the shortfall has led to drastic measures including major cuts to food aid.
“Families who rely on this aid have been coping by withdrawing their children from school and sending them to work, going into debt or entering their children into marriage at a young age. Now, nearly five years into the conflict, refugees are increasingly desperate and taking enormous risks to survive. The European Union must take meaningful action and stand in solidarity,” says Anita Delhaas, EU Representative & Executive Director in Brussels.
Notes to editors:
- World Vision is responding to the Syria crisis in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and northern Syria.
- World Vision is a relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. It works in close to 100 countries in most regions of the world including Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Asia Pacific Region.
- For more information please contact Ludovic Wahis, Policy and Communications Officer, World Vision Brussels & EU Representation, +32 (0) 2 274 18 67, Ludovic_Wahis@wvi.org