In Serbia One In Four Refugee Children Arrive Alone, Save the Children Reports

Belgrade, Serbia (Sept. 18, 2015) — Save the Children is stepping up its emergency response to the refugee crisis in Serbia, where more than 25,000 children have arrived this year alone, including at least 5,753 unaccompanied minors.

Based on the latest data provided to UNHCR by the Serbian government, Save the Children estimates that there has been a 66 percent increase in the arrival of unaccompanied minors in Serbia between July and August this year alone, with more than one in four recently-arrived children having been separated from their parents and families, leaving them particularly at risk of trafficking, abuse, and exploitation.

“Hundreds of exhausted and distressed children are arriving here every day. Many are sick from the desperate conditions on the journey. With Hungary shutting its border, people are increasingly scared and uncertain what will happen next or where to go,’ says Andrea Zeravcic, director of Save the Children in North West Balkans.

Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, based in Fairfield, Conn., noted, “People have fled unimaginable suffering and risked their lives to get here. Leaders in Europe and the United States have a duty to help them, not only those that made it to Europe, but also the millions more left behind.”

More than 135,000 refugees have arrived in Serbia so far this year, on their way to other European nations. Thousands of refugees have entered Croatia in the past 48-hours following the closure of the Hungarian border earlier this week, and are making their way to Slovenia and further EU countries.

Croatia has now closed seven of its eight border crossings with Serbia, and it is uncertain which alternative routes the refugees may now take. In the meantime, the number of refugees in Serbia is expected to increase as crossing into neighboring EU countries becomes more difficult.

Despite the best efforts of the Serbian authorities, the overwhelming influx has stretched capacity and refugees are sheltering in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in reception centers and public spaces, such as parks or stations.

Save the Children staff members in Serbia are reporting that numerous newly-arrived children are exhausted after a long trip, in need of food and water, while many also need medical assistance.

“Currently, there are 920 beds in five asylum centers, plus an additional 26 in one temporary center near the Macedonian border, and communal tents in Kanjiza for 800 – 1000 people, but it is simply not enough to cope with the unprecedented influx of people, particularly with the freezing cold temperatures and rains that winter brings here,” warns Zeravcic.

Save the Children is setting up safe spaces for children and mothers with babies, and distributing food parcels, baby hygiene items and water to refugees. A mobile Child Friendly Space is now set up in two parks in Belgrade, where children receive support to cope with the trauma of their journey, as well as educational sessions.

Most of the refugees arriving in Serbia are fleeing Syria, where ongoing conflict and bombing has forced more than 12 million people from their homes. Others have also arrived from Afghanistan (15 percent), Iraq (five percent), Pakistan (two percent) and Somalia (two percent).

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