Government of Germany and UNICEF join forces for refugee and migrant children in Germany


Government of Germany and UNICEF join forces for refugee and migrant children in Germany

On 11 December 2015, girls play with dolls at the refugee shelter at Templehof Airfield in Berlin. (Left-right) sisters Isree, 10,  and Ilaf, 12, from Hassaka, Syria with friends Helen, 10, from Qaamishle, Syria; and Noor, 10, from Idlib, Syria. Templehof Airfield is a former airport dating back to the 1920s, and was used during the Berlin Airlift in 1948. The hangers are today are housing 2,000 refugees, and while designed for transiting within two weeks, many families living there have been there since the shelter opened 6 weeks ago.  Authorities, NGOs and staff working for  a private company running the facility are doing the best they can to make the situation more bearable under quite difficult circumstances. The shelter started operating with two days notice before the first refugees arrived. There are activities for children and they are being scaled up in cooperation with NGOs Save the Children and Together.

"We don't understand the language, and we don't know when we're getting out of there." said Helen, "It's really boring. And at night, it gets really cold. We can't go to the toilets at night, because they're outside and it's freezing cold." Until showers are finished being built on the premises, the residents of Templehof are bussed to nearby public pools once a week to shower.  "The showers are communal and we only have ten minutes to wash," said Helen, "I'm scared the bus taking us back to the camp is going to leave. That happened once and we were stranded [...] We heard a kid was kidnapped and had his throat cut with a knife," she continued, "So we are very afraid. They're just rumours, but we hear a lot of stories about violence, of people being killed [...] One of the good things here are the German classes, and some days circus performers come. They said that they would take us out to a real circus soon. [...] There is a place for kids, but it's been closed for a couple of days now because they're refurnishing it. They're bringing new toys. It's v

© UNICEF/UN04026/Gilbertson VII

On 11 December 2015, girls play with dolls at the refugee shelter at Templehof Airfield in Berlin.

BERLIN, Germany/ HONG KONG, 14 December 2015 – With more than 300,000 refugee and migrant children having entered Germany this year, UNICEF and the Government of Germany today announced a new partnership aimed at improving their care and protection.

Despite efforts at all levels of German society, the sheer scale of the crisis has strained the German welfare system, leaving refugee and migrant children at risk, according to a joint assessment by the German authorities and UNICEF.

“Wherever children, adolescents and women are staying, measures for their protection from assaults and sexual violence including sexual assaults and harassment need to be taken,” Minister of Family Affairs, Manuela Schwesig. “But for better protection, measures for infrastructure and personnel are needed, as well as more information, sensitization and training for staff and volunteers. This is why together with UNICEF we want to create services that will enable a better protection for children, youth and women in facilities for refugees.”

The assessment has shown that child and women refugees and migrants are vulnerable to becoming victims of violence, abuse and exploitation, particularly in reception and temporary accommodation centres. Children in these centres often do not have full access to adequate schooling, psychosocial support and recreational activities for several months after arrival.

“We have a shared sense of purpose with Germany as our partner – to safeguard the most vulnerable children, wherever they come from,” said Marie Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe. ”Children on the move have endured war, persecution and terrible journeys. They may have reached their destination in Germany but it is the beginning of a new journey for them. We must be by their side.”

The Government and UNICEF will now develop specific plans together with German NGOs to monitor and support children better. They will include:

– Helping identify children at-risk
– Supporting learning and play opportunities and work with partners to increase access to services and counselling by providing expertise and training on Child Friendly Spaces
– Training and mentoring to frontline workers to prevent violence and abuse
– Technical advice and support to boost protection systems in reception and accommodation centres
– Helping improve data systems, monitor child-related issues and reporting them to the Federal Government
– Supporting the development of practical guidance, training and mentoring to make centres more child-friendly and gender-sensitive and
– Establishing codes of conduct for workers, and better complaint and referral mechanisms.

“After their long and often dangerous flight, refugee children in Germany are in a relatively safe place. But their living conditions in accommodation centers like sports halls, former military barracks or other temporary shelters are likely to be tough for some time,” said Christian Schneider, Executive Director of the German National Committee for UNICEF.

“Countless staff and volunteers are doing a fantastic job. However, there are neither binding standards for the protection of children, nor sufficient opportunities to play and to learn or psycho-social assistance. It must not depend on chance whether refugee children in Germany are best protected and cared for.”

UNICEF is providing water and sanitation, child protection and education to children affected by conflict in their countries of origin such as Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan and is supporting children on the move in the Balkans.

The German Government contributed €250 million to UNICEF this year – an increase of €100m from 2014 – for reaching millions of children caught in conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen and Syrian refugee children living in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.