War and violence in Syria and Iraq have driven millions of people from their homes to countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. With no prospect of improvement, many of them decide in desperation to flee further. They are even prepared to make the perilous trip in rickety boats across the Mediterranean in order to reach Europe. Many of the refugees are children. Child refugees are extremely vulnerable. Not just to drowning and malnourishment, but to exploitation and abuse as well. Child traffickers and other criminals are lurking. Terre des Hommes supports children and their families in countries around the Mediterranean and in Europe.

What is Terre des Hommes doing for the refugees?

Terre des Hommes has projects to support refugees in various countries around the Mediterranean. In 2011, the FARO project was launched on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where most of the boat refugees have ended up in the past few years. As part of the Destination Unknown campaign, we are working with local partner organisations in Greece, Cyprus and Malta. The projects are focussed on offering shelter and support to child refugees who are fleeing without their parents or other family members. We also run projects to support refugees 'in the region', i.e. in the Middle East itself. There are also a lot of refugees from war-torn areas further afield, such as Afghanistan and Eritrea.

FARO: a beacon of light for child boat refugees

In 2011, Terre des Hommes launched the FARO project on the island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean. Faro is Italian for lighthouse. Among the tens of thousands of migrants who have landed there, either in their own boat or picked up by the Italian navy, were thousands of youngsters and children. Many of them were not accompanied by their parents or any other attendant. These children have often suffered serious, traumatic experiences during their journey, including violence. They need special care. In addition to water and food in their first hours, Terre des Hommes offers child-friendly areas, sports and games, socio-psychological help and legal assistance. We also talk to the authorities about incidents of abuse in the refugee centres.

Milan: emergency aid and legal assistance

Many migrants become stranded on their journey in and around Milan's railway station. The situation is comparable with that in, for example, Budapest. Terre des Hommes works with local organisations and volunteers to distribute water and food, kits with initial essentials (soap, toothpaste and such like), tries to shelter children in a child-friendly space and provides legal assistance. 

Germany: support for refugee families 

In Germany, Terre des Hommes is working with partner organisations to provide socio-psychological support to refugee families. This involves practical help in the social integration of these families, as well as psychological support to help them to process the traumas they have suffered before fleeing and during the journey.

Hungary and Serbia: reception for children

Terre des Hommes is working on a project that will distribute water, food and initial essentials to refugees travelling through Hungary and Serbia. Just as in Italy, we also set up child-friendly spaces so that children can be received safely. We will also offer legal assistance. If we have sufficient funds, we will set up the same activities in Macedonia as well.

Support in the region

The majority of refugees do not want to leave their country at all and would prefer to wait in the region for the chance to return home, as soon as the situation permits. In the meantime, there are millions of refugees in countries neighbouring Syria, specifically  Lebanon (around 1.2 million), Jordan, Turkey (2 million) and Northern Iraq. But at the same time, this presents an enormous problem because these countries really cannot deal with these huge numbers. Facilities such as healthcare and education are not geared towards these new residents. And there is not enough employment for them. The international community therefore also needs to help.

Terre des Hommes has projects in Syria itself, in Lebanon, Jordan and Northern Iraq: 

  • Among other activities in Syria we offer immediate emergency aid: we distribute food packages.
  • In Lebanon, we are focusing on formal and informal education for Syrian refugees, on child-friendly areas and on psycho-social support. We are also supporting a lot of families with food aid, mattresses, winter clothing or cooking implements, for example. We are working in Beirut, Tripoli and Tyre, in the Bekaa valley, in the Mount Lebanon region and in the Rashidiyeh, Ain El Helweh and Naher Al Bared refugee camps 
  • In Jordan, we have a project that focuses on healthcare for pregnant woman, new mothers, babies and young children. 
  • In Northern Iraq, we are focusing on child-friendly areas, trauma processing and psycho-social help and education, for example about hygiene and the rights of the child. In some cases, we also support families with material help.

These projects are financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Via the Destination Unknown campaign, Terre des Hommes and its local partners have since 2012 been drawing attention to the particularly vulnerable position of child migrants or refugees. Particularly children travelling without their parents or other companions.

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