Children fleeing Ukraine, UNHCR-UNICEF guidelines

2022/03/22 Type of resource: Topics: Titles:

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) issued a series of recommendations to local authorities, civil society organisations and volunteers on the observation of safeguards for girls and boys fleeing Ukraine.

"According to the latest available data, a total of more than 2.8 million refugees crossed the Ukrainian border into Europe between 24 February and 12 March," reads the press release issued by the two organisations, who are present at the border to support the Ukrainian emergency. UNHCR estimates that this number may increase to at least 4 million. On 14 March, according to data provided by the Ministry of the Interior, over 37,000 refugees had entered Italy, including 19,000 women, over 3,000 men and over 15,000 children. According to border officials, most arrivals at the moment are children, who are accompanied by their families, by caregivers in the case of children in institutions, or separated children, escorted by the adults to whom they are entrusted on the journey, aimed at reuniting with relatives in Italy. There are few cases of unaccompanied children travelling without any adult figures by their side.

UNHCR and UNICEF recognise the considerable support movement consisting of volunteers, non-governmental organisations, local authorities and private individuals, who have made themselves available to shelter the Ukrainian children and their families and provide them with support during this complex period. Underlined in the press release, "it is fundamental, that these actions be initiated within the framework of rights and guarantees that regulate the safeguarding and protection of all children, in order to avoid the risk that these practices do not have the inadvertent effect of undermining the rights provided for in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Adolescents".

The following are some of the reception recommendations made by UNHCR and UNICEF.

  • The organisations recognise that the best protection for every child is to grow up in a family. This universal principle applies all the more to those fleeing conflict and violence. Children who are travelling alone or have been separated from their families must above all, be supported to be reunited with their families as quickly and safely as possible. It is necessary to assign the task of tracing family ties to the competent authorities, bypassing the use of informal mediators.
  • The children who are being evacuated from Ukrainian institutions in recent times should not all be considered orphans. Each child has his or her own personal and family history, and there may be many reasons why they did not live with their family, so it is essential to pursue an approach based on an individual case assessment.
  • Adoption should never take place during or immediately after the occurrence of an emergency. This is because adoption is a sensitive and complex procedure, the careful assessment of which must be carried out to protect the child as comprehensively as possible.
  • For children and adolescents fleeing without their families, family fostering may be a solution of choice to be assessed on the basis of the individual situation of the child and the profile of the host families, but without assuming that full-time family fostering is the ideal solution for every child.
  • When seeking offers of hospitality from welcoming families or individuals, expressions of solidarity should be channelled towards the official circuits (services for the protection and safeguard of children, local authority family fostering centres and/or services, also managed by private social bodies that have an agreement with the local authority) of information, training and support for welcoming or fostering, in order to avoid exposing children to the risk of abuse.

The full text with all the recommendations is available on the Unicef website, in the dedicated news item, and on the UNHCR website, in the relevant press release.

Other materials and news can be found on this site under the topic Children in Armed Conflicts, accessible from the "Topics" navigation menu.