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Protect children refugees in Europe – UN
February 3, 2016, 5:17 pm

Seafaring refugees have been streaming to Greek shores for years but there has been a significant spike in numbers in 2015 [Xinhua]

Seafaring refugees have been streaming to Greek shores for years but there has been a significant spike in numbers in 2015 [Xinhua]

The United Nations says that women and children make up two-thirds of all refugees making the perilous Mediterranean crossing to European shores.

The United Nations Children’s Fund said this week that recent data indicates that there are more children and women on the move than adult males since the refugee crisis started nearly a year ago.

This is in stark contrast to last summer when male refugees comprised 73 per cent of people crossing the Mediterranean.

The UN report comes in the wake of dozens of children drowning off the Greek coast since the beginning of the year, highlighting that the refugee crisis has not yet been resolved.

European powers, largely Germany, Macedonia, Romania, Denmark and Sweden have reacted differently to the tide of tens of thousands of desperate refugees.

Some have called for a change in the European Schengen border agreement, while others have said they will repatriate thousands.

Some European powers have chastised front line Greece for not doing enough to document refugees, particularly males some of whom could be members of the Islamic State, security analysts fear.

But the UN says that the plight of child refugees should be prioritized.

In light of some of the measures taken by European states, the UN says that the “best interests of each individual unaccompanied child should be examined before any actions are taken”.

In a press release accompanying the report, UNICEF’s Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe Marie Pierre Poirier said that children and women are more at risk at sea and require more protection on land.

“Welfare, protection and health systems need to be strengthened at every step of the way so children and women are not exploited or fall between cracks,” she said.

Most of the refugees are Syrian, although there are many Iraqis and Afghans fleeing conflict in their countries.

The UNHCR says there are currently more than four million registered refugees displaced by the Syrian war, concentrated in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

Turkey in the lead, is hosting close to two million refugees, while Lebanon and Jordan are hosting above a million refugees each.

Meanwhile, the number of Syrians seeking asylum in Europe continues to increase.

The UNHCR says there have been around 350,000 asylum applications in Europe since 2011, concentrated in Germany and Sweden.

Earlier this week, Jordan’s King Abdullah said his country was at “boiling point” as it struggled to deal with the influx of Syrian refugees.

“Sooner or later, I think the dam is going to burst and I think this week is going to be very important for Jordanians to see, is there going to be help – not only for Syrian refugees, but for their own future as well,” King Abdullah told the BBC ahead of a key London conference on the crisis.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies