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UNHCR launches new funding appeal for refugees as winter weather hits Europe

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UNHCR launches new funding appeal for refugees as winter weather hits Europe

5 November 2015

With continuing high rates of refugee and migrant arrivals in Europe via the Mediterranean, UNHCR has today appealed to donors for US$96.15 million in additional support for the winter months for Greece and affected countries in the Balkans.

Harsh weather conditions in the region are likely to exacerbate the suffering of the thousands of refugees and migrants landing in Greece and travelling through the Balkans, and may result in further loss of life if adequate measures are not taken urgently. UNHCR's new winter plan anticipates that there could be up to 5,000 arrivals per day from Turkey between November 2015 and February 2016.

The plan focuses on putting in place measures to support affected countries such as Croatia, Greece, Serbia, Slovenia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in order to avert the risk of humanitarian tragedy and loss of life during the winter months.

In concrete terms, UNHCR will work on preparing, adapting and upgrading existing shelter and reception facilities for winter ("winterization") and supplying emergency shelters such as family tents, refugee housing units and Rubb halls equipped with heating.

Most refugees and migrants will be exposed to the cold and to adverse weather conditions during their journey. Winter clothing and blankets, as well as other essential items for protecting people from the elements, will be included in the aid packages to be distributed to individuals with specific needs.

Transportation by buses or train is available in many places, but in a number of locations there remain long stretches of roads that refugees and migrants may have to walk along in order to access reception and registration facilities. Should government authorities or other partners not be in a position to provide alternative arrangements, as an interim measure, UNHCR will consider providing transportation to reception centres to expedite access by refugees and asylum-seekers to assistance and protection services, while reducing their exposure to the elements. Similarly, UNHCR will work with national and local authorities, Red Cross organizations, NGOs and local volunteer networks to meet any gaps in the provision of hot food and hot drinks at key arrival locations and reception centres.

UNHCR will also work on the winterization of water supply systems (insulation of water supply pipelines, pumps, tanks and reservoirs to avoid freezing, as well as the provision of adequate heated structures for all water points) and sanitation facilities (insulation of wastewater pipelines, septic tanks and pump stations to avoid freezing, heating of water for showers and provision of adequate heated structures for toilets, showers, wash basins and laundry facilities).

The US$96.15 million appeal launched today builds on the emergency appeal for the Initial Response Plan for the Refugee Crisis in Europe, issued on 8 September 2015, and the supplementary appeal for the Special Mediterranean Initiative (June-December 2015), issued on 30 September 2015.

This winterization appeal will form part of a comprehensive Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan, which will call on partners to join UNHCR and IOM on a wide-ranging response. This appeal does not include activities foreseen in the 17-point plan of action, agreed upon by concerned States at the Meeting on the Western Balkans Migration Route on 25 October 2015. The costing of these activities is currently being undertaken in coordination with the States concerned.

With the new appeal, UNHCR's total supplementary requirements now stand at US$172,724,529.

The Winterization Plan for the Refugee Crisis in Europe can be downloaded here:

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • William Spindler, in Geneva +41 79 217 3011