GENEVA/SKOPJE (UNICEF)* – The number of women and children fleeing violence in their countries of origin and passing through the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia seeking refuge in Europe has tripled in the past three months, UNICEF on 1 September, 2015 said.
An estimated 3,000 people are transiting through the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia daily. A third of them are women and children – up from 10 per cent in June. Some 12 per cent of the women are pregnant.
According to figures from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Ministry of Interior, 80 per cent originate from Syria, while 5 per cent are from Afghanistan and another 5 per cent are from Iraq.
Since June 2015, more than 52,000 people have been registered at the border’s Reception Centre in Gevgelija after entering from Greece. It is estimated that just as many transit through the country without being registered.
Many families have been on the move with their children for months, enduring searing hot days, arriving with only the clothes and shoes they are wearing. They are physically exhausted and in desperate need of a place to rest. Many are suffering dehydration, blisters, cold, diarrhoea and sunburn.
Despite the best efforts of the government and partners on the ground, including UNHCR, they need more water and greater access to sanitation and hygiene facilities. Many are deeply distressed and some need medical assistance.
UNICEF is dispatching water bladders and two 72 square metre tents to Skopje. The 30,000 litre water bladders will give people transiting through the centre access to clean drinking water, which is currently limited to bottled water.
The water may also be used for washing, as washing facilities yet to be established. The tents will be used for child-friendly spaces; the current space can accommodate 50 children at a time and provides art, play and educational materials for children.
Since it was first set up on 23 August, it has received as many as 1,200 children. UNICEF is also procuring much-needed food for children.
Regardless of their status, children moving across borders, with their families or unaccompanied, should be given appropriate help and protection. Their applications for refugee status should be processed swiftly and fairly at border crossings with proper monitoring and enforcement. Authorities in Europe should apply existing laws and policies to safeguard and protect the rights of children.
UNICEF is closely monitoring the situation on the ground and is working with local authorities to ensure children are protected. UNICEF continues to advocate that all actions for children on the move must be guided by the best interests of every child, every step of the way.
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