Migrant men holding children walk toward the Turkish-Greek border crossings from the city center of Edirne, Turkey | Photo: EPA/Erdem Sahin
Migrant men holding children walk toward the Turkish-Greek border crossings from the city center of Edirne, Turkey | Photo: EPA/Erdem Sahin

UNICEF has denounced that 40% of people currently concentrated near the Turkish city of Edirne and in other areas along Turkey's border with Greece are women and children who need protection.

UNICEF on March 3 published a statement calling for the protection of children in the latest refugee surge at the Turkish-Greek border. "Whether at sea, at border crossings or in the conflict-affected areas the children are fleeing, children are the first casualties," the statement read.

In recent weeks, escalating violence in northwest Syria has displaced close to 600,000 children. Of the several thousand people currently concentrated near Edirne and along the Turkish-Greek land border, an estimated 40% are women and children.

"States must do everything possible to prevent further harm to the most innocent," the statement read further. The UN agency said that, along with its partners, it was responding on the ground to "the immediate needs of children, assisting with shelter, water, hygiene items, blankets and other non-food items."

Countries must respect international agreements

"We are also working to meet the urgent needs of those stranded along Turkey's border with Bulgaria, where incidents of violent pushbacks have been reported," the organization said in the statement.

"Now is the time for all countries concerned to uphold their international commitments to protect children from violence and harm, no matter who they are or where they come from," UNICEF said.

UNICEF called on the European Union to show solidarity with Greece and Turkey, two countries the organization said showed "generosity in welcoming and accommodating large numbers of children and families," adding that single states cannot "manage refugee and migration flows alone."

Safe access must be guaranteed to asylum seekers

Calling it a "tragic reminder" of the "harrowing journeys being undertaken" by young migrants "seeking safety in Europe," UNICEF in the statement remembered the reported death of a child that traveled on a dinghy that capsized off the Greek island of Lesbos earlier this week.

"Now is the time to ensure safe access to asylum and international protection, rather than actions and statements inciting xenophobia or fueling discrimination," the organization stressed.
 

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