The UN Children’s Fund reports about 300,000 vulnerable refugee and migrant children in Germany are not getting the protection and care they need. UNICEF says it is rolling out a package of measures to help the government face the acute challenges ahead.
About one million refugees and migrants have arrived in Germany this year. Most are Syrians and Afghans who have suffered long and arduous journeys to find a safe haven from war and persecution.
Although they have reached their destination, UNICEF says it is just the beginning of a new journey for some 300,000 children who face many uncertainties and are vulnerable to abuse.
UNICEF representative Sarah Crowe recently returned from Berlin where she visited Templehof, an old pre-World War II airport hangar housing 2,000 refugees and migrants. She says they are living under very elementary conditions in tents and pre-fabricated structures.
“We are seeing very worrying signs about the exposure that women and children have to violence, to sexual abuse, to exploitation in these emergency holding centers, as well as while they are trying to be housed elsewhere in the country,” she said.
Crowe says little is known about the situation and needs of the refugee and migrant children, including 57,000 unaccompanied minors. She says the lack of good data and statistics makes it difficult to know how best to protect and care for these children. She says UNICEF hopes to fill this huge gap.
“Unaccompanied children, interestingly enough, fall into the youth and welfare system, while often accompanied children are the ones that fall between the cracks," she said. "They do not get into schooling. They do not get into play, to learning facilities. They are basically left to their own devices, while their families are trying to get settled.”
Crowe says UNICEF initially will assist the government in improving standards of care and protection of children in more than 200 accommodation centers across the country.
The agency, along with the government and German private agencies, will seek to identify children at-risk, support learning and play opportunities, provide counseling to traumatized children and boost protection systems in reception and accommodation centers.