New York – An estimated 24,600 refugee children are “living in limbo” waiting to join their families in Western Europe, UNICEF said on Thursday in New York.
The organisation said that single mothers and children were among the nearly 75,000 refugees and migrants stranded in Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Western Balkan Country.
According to Afshan Khan, the UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugees and Migrant Crisis in Europe, the family reunification process is slow, and its outcome is uncertain.
“This uncertainty can cause significant emotional distress and anxiety for children and families, setting them back for years to come,” Khan added.
The organisation said that the migrants were waiting to find out when and whether or not they could join their male relatives, who had gone ahead of them to the EU countries, the organisation said in a statement.
“We are seeing single mothers and children stranded in Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, who have not seen their husbands and fathers for months or even years”.
According to UNICEF, the reunification requests can take between ten months and two years to be processed and the EU countries have varying policies on whether or not to allow asylum seekers to join their families.
UNICEF recalled that nearly 5,000 family reunification requests were made from Greece in 2016, 700 of which were from unaccompanied and separated children.
The organisation added that 1,107 successful applicants reached their destination countries by the end of the year.