© UNICEF/UN010691/Georgiev – Hundreds of Afghan refugees, including children and women, are stuck in freezing conditions in Tabanovce in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonian as border changes in the Balkan region create confusion and chaos.
GENEVA/ HONG KONG, 1 March, 2016 – The dire situation unfolding at border points along the Balkan land route, especially in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece, has left thousands of children stranded, distressed and at risk of poor health and abuse, says UNICEF.
In the chaos and confusion, children have been forced to sleep outside in the open in squalid conditions for over a week, lacking access to basic services, such as showers and the right food. Families risk separation, and children have been stuck outside transit centres or for hours in trains with no clear destination.
“What I am witnessing here is small children under the age of five stuck in between two fences,” said Jesper Jensen, UNICEF emergency field co-ordinator in Gevgelijia, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. “They cannot go forward and they cannot go back – they need shelter and rest and they need to know what lies ahead.”
Due to the rapidly-evolving situation at border transit centres in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, UNICEF has been scaling up its response. These activities include facilitating access to water and sanitation facilities, especially for children and small babies, and providing personal hygiene items and food to help children and their families cope amidst distressing conditions.
UNICEF repeats the call for a united, co-ordinated approach by all governments along the primary transit routes and in countries of destination. No child should have to spend the night without shelter and without access to basic services.