Between January and June 2020, 6,177 children arrived in Greece, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta. Of these, 2,302 (37%) were unaccompanied or separated children (UASC). Child arrivals in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Spain in the first half of 2020 decreased by 32% compared to the first half in 2019 (8,236).
Impact of COVID
The impact which COVID-19 has had on entire systems and population groups of course extends to refugee and migrant children. Suspension of procedures such as registration, age assessment and asylum impacted access to services for children, including guardianship, and in some contexts access to appropriate shelter. Family reunion/reunification has been delayed with the suspension of asylum procedures, consular services in third countries and limited flight options to facilitate transfers. Physical distancing and confinement measures have exacerbated previous challenges of individual oversight and case management, effective information provision to children as well as support for caregivers and parents. Access to education has been a challenge particularly in reception facilities, as refugee and migrant children may not have the same levels of connectivity for online learning, and with crowded reception conditions being far less conducive to learning than school environments. Integration may also be hindered as regular interaction in schools and with host community children and teachers has been disrupted.
Overall, heightened risk factors such as increased poverty and food insecurity, limited access to education, disruption of peer and social support networks for children/caregivers, as well as community and social support services, have had a detrimental effect on mental health and psycho-social well-being, and exacerbated the risk of violence, abuse and neglect for children, both unaccompanied and within families.