Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe

Operational information on the Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe subregion is presented below. A summary of this can also be downloaded in PDF format. This subregion covers the following countries:

| Andorra | Austria | Belgium | Bulgaria | Croatia | Cyprus | Czech Republic | Denmark | Estonia | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Holy See (the) | Hungary | Iceland| Ireland | Italy | Latvia | Liechtenstein | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Malta | Monaco |Netherlands (the) | Norway |Poland | Republic of Moldova (the) Portugal | Romania |San Marino | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland | United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the) |

Subregion: Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe


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Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe

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2018 {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"budget":[63.26919003,68.06467853,110.92231352,386.522619389,336.889691428,344.72385762],"expenditure":[50.03311406,53.1706932,82.16008297,240.0086692,274.12353993,300.51151883]} {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"p1":[59.15260142,64.25408379,104.603939475,382.144094999,333.136415548,341.52840399],"p2":[4.11658861,3.81059474,5.127210913,3.39118021,2.97903254,3.03280026],"p3":[null,null,1.191163132,0.98734418,0.77424334,0.16265337],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"p1":[46.80158789,50.31378371,77.86368722,236.40963004,270.97183222,298.0660434],"p2":[3.23152617,2.85690949,3.24322882,2.63812679,2.47224807,2.3235376],"p3":[null,null,1.05316693,0.96091237,0.67945964,0.12193783],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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People of Concern - 2018

[["Refugees",2637440],["Refugee-like situation",13434],["Asylum-seekers",924599],["Stateless",396515],["Others of concern",6000]]
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Response in 2018

In 2018, some 141,500 refugees and migrants arrived to Europe from North Africa and Turkey, the majority to Spain (65,400), Greece (50,500) and Italy (23,400).  Overall, the number of arrivals in Europe decreased by 24% compared to 2017, largely due to a reduction in the numbers from North Africa to Italy (80% reduction), although, at the same time, significant increases were reported in the numbers from North Africa to Spain (130% increase) and from Turkey to Greece (70% increase).
Due to the high risks associated with crossing the Mediterranean Sea, it is estimated that close to 2,280 refugees and migrants died in 2018.  Most deaths occurred along the route from North Africa to Italy.
During the reporting period, UNHCR’s main focus remained on access to territory, acceptable reception conditions and safeguarding asylum space; protection work continued through monitoring to gather evidence, advocacy, legal aid and strategic litigation, public information as well as individual interventions when possible.
Key priorities included the protection of unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) and provision and support to national authorities for the identification of and appropriate assistance to other people with specific needs. UNHCR also continued to advocate for an expansion of resettlement programmes and the introduction of other complementary pathways for people of concern.

Operations in 2018

In Northern Europe, the overall number of asylum-seekers decreased by almost 20%, due to remaining internal checks at EU borders, strengthened controls at the external borders of the EU and the cooperation between the EU and Libya, Turkey and several African countries.
The roll-out of the multi-year multi-partner strategy led to strengthened cooperation and new partnerships in all priority areas.  UNHCR continued to focus on addressing restrictions and advocate for better standards of asylum through training, research, law comments and judicial interventions.  UNHCR intervened, among other things, on extensive use of internal flight alternatives (IFA), cessation, recognition rates through quality assessments, and provision of country of origin information (COI), as well as provided technical advice and training that led to improved refugee status determination (RSD).  Challenges regarding access to territory were addressed through monitoring visits, training of border guards, litigation and advocacy.  Improved quality of legal aid and litigation was achieved through provision of support to lawyers’ networks and NGOs to monitor practices, identify cases for strategic litigation and training.
UNHCR engagement in integration matters focused on overall policy as well as legislative proposals and amendments. Available resources required strict prioritization and hampered opportunities to further strengthen legal networks, provide quality legal aid, and pursue judicial interventions.
In Western Europe, despite sustained low arrival rates to the EU, the reverberations of the 2015-16 emergency persisted at the political level with the further development of restrictive approaches in some EU member states, resulting in shrinking protection space, including access to territory and disembarkation in situations of rescue at sea.
Protection strategy focused on regional priority areas: improved reception; strengthened SGBV prevention response; protection of children/UASC, improved quality of national asylum procedure, expansion of legal pathways including access to family reunification, integration as well as eradication of statelessness. Strong advocacy efforts were made to support the adoption of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) as well as for the adoption of the Global Refugee Compact.
Available funding, or funding made available late in the year, resulted in gaps in areas such as statelessness, mixed migration, border monitoring, capacity building, quality of asylum procedures, integration, public information campaigns and community mobilization.
Anti-foreigner sentiment remained prevalent in Central Europe in 2018 although the number of asylum-seekers continued to decrease and labour markets experienced acute shortages of workers.  Several countries persisted in rejecting compulsory solidarity schemes, namely relocation and resettlement, and advocated for preventing arrivals in Europe.  Restrictions on family reunification opportunities also had an effect on onward movements to and within Europe.  In Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Moldova and Poland, physical and legal barriers continued to be used to deter asylum-seekers, exposing them to serious protection risks such as exploitation by smugglers, unlawful returns and violence by the border police.  In this context, integration opportunities remained limited and insufficient to be successful
Against this background, UNHCR drafted and disseminated a number of strategic-direction papers to advance its regional goals such as the regional protection strategy, the regional judicial engagement strategy and a note on child protection.
UNHCR’s support for advocacy at country level through engagement with municipalities and private sector facilitated the promotion of access to territory and asylum procedures and respect for the rights of asylum-seekers with specific attention to women and children.   As positive achievements, the exemption from immigration detention was granted to all UASC as of June 2018 in all Central Europe and detailed rules on the application of alternatives to detention were established.  
In Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania, strategic litigation interventions complemented advocacy efforts to improve access to the territory and reduce the use of detention, albeit with varying impact on government policies.
Considering the absence of state integration support despite the adoption of Action Plans on Integration of refugees (2015-2020 in Bulgaria and 2017-2019 in Croatia), UNHCR was directly involved in delivering financial or in-kind assistance particularly in Bulgaria and Croatia.
UNHCR’s advocacy on statelessness yielded positive results in the sub-region through capacity-building, information and awareness campaigns, trainings and provision of free assistance to persons in need. 
Southern Europe
The protection environment significantly changed in Italy, leading to the adoption of immigration and security reforms introducing more restrictive policies such as “closed ports” approach and lowered protection standards.  In this context, UNHCR adjusted its operational advocacy and strengthened its protection outreach, monitoring and strategic delivery, with particular emphasis on community-based programming and engagement with refugee communities.  Thanks to consistent advocacy, UNHCR influenced members of the Parliament to change a few provisions of the new law and leveraged on key partnerships to set-up a comprehensive strategy on its implementation.  As a follow-up to the pilot projects introduced in 2017, UNHCR consolidated the partnership with the Ombudsperson for the Rights of the Children by rolling-out innovative participation methodologies and providing visibility at national level to protection gaps faced by UASC.
In Cyprus, 2018 was marked by a sharp increase in the number of asylum applications, which strained the country’s response capacity and resulted in stricter policies on detention, reception and refugee status qualification.  The increased number of asylum applications led to over 10,940 people awaiting a decision on both first and second instances. 
UNHCR’s enhanced public information interventions yielded positive results when compared to previous years.
With the resumption of sea arrivals from Libya to Malta in June, operational activities to respond to the needs of new arrivals increased significantly, including support to the Government with ad hoc transfer arrangements (pre-departure interviews and registration), interpretation support as well as legal information and counselling together with partners.  UNHCR also supported the Government in promulgating a Local Integration Charter to link local councils with specific integration benchmarks at the local level.
Spain became the main sea and land entry point of refugees and migrants heading to Europe, with a massive influx of arrivals to the Andalusian coast, 65,400 people in 2018 alone.  In consequence, UNHCR further consolidated its protection presence at the main arrival points and its advocacy efforts on the importance of identifying protection and other immediate reception needs, leading to better monitoring of main border entry points, extensive capacity-building for border guards, prevention of refoulement, guaranteed access to asylum procedure and counselling.

Operational Environment

As of mid-2017, the number of people reaching Greece via the Eastern Mediterranean route remained low compared to the same period in 2016. While arrivals to Italy increased significantly in the first semester, lower numbers crossing the sea from Libya in July meant that the overall number of arrivals decreased.
From January to June 2017 the European Union (EU) member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland received close to 217,000 new asylum applications, which represents 46 per cent of the applications this subregion received in 2016 over the same period. The main countries of origin reported are Syria (15%), Afghanistan (7%), Nigeria (7%), Iraq (6%) and Eritrea (5%). Following a constant decrease from August 2016 to February 2017, the number of new applications increased again in March 2017.
UNHCR will continue to safeguard asylum space; ensure access to territory and acceptable reception conditions; support authorities with provision of assistance and referrals to relevant services; build and maintain effective and fair asylum procedures; prevent and resolve statelessness; and prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
Key priorities for 2018 remain the  protection of unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) and providing support to national authorities for the identification of and appropriate assistance to other people with specific needs;. UNHCR also continues to advocate for an expansion of resettlement programmes and the introduction of other complementary pathways for people of concern.

Response and Implementation

Mixed movements are continuing in Central Europe albeit at a slower pace compared to previous years. Refugees and migrants attempt transiting through Bulgaria, Hungary and, to a lesser extent, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia, to reach destination countries. Since most countries have increased the legal and physical restrictions and further limit access to territory, refugees and migrants often resort to the use of unsafe smuggling routes, including by seeking new corridors via land and sea. Collective expulsions continue to be reported throughout the region. UNHCR continues its efforts to work with key players including governments and civil society to strengthen asylum systems where possible and to provide protection to the most vulnerable people of concern, including unaccompanied and separated children, and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
As a part of the UNHCR pilot for the multi-year multi-partner planning, UNHCR in Northern Europe (RRNE) is developing a five-year strategy together with partners and (new) stakeholders, which focuses on access to territory; lean quality asylum procedures, including reception; child-sensitive processes; ending statelessness and supporting solutions beyond Europe, including funding, resettlement and legal pathways. Strengthened engagement with civil society and the private sector to explore ways of facilitating integration is a key component of the strategy.
In Southern Europe, UNHCR will continue focusing on ensuring adequate reception and improving registration procedures, provision of counselling and greater governmental investments in integration. Contingency preparedness activities also remain important. Particularly in Italy, UNHCR is increasing reception monitoring activities, which should allow for enhanced data on reception and protection gaps and improve conditions on the long term. The trend of high numbers of unaccompanied and Separated Children (UASC) arrivals as well as the occurrence of the alarmingly high incidence of SGBV and trafficking are expected to continue in Italy and Spain. UNHCR will continue its engagement in more robust responses to address the special needs of UASC and SGBV survivors. Enhanced exploration of integration opportunities for refugees will be sought in all operations, e.g. through UNHCR’s engagement in the implementation of national integration plans in Italy and Malta.
In Western Europe, UNHCR remains concerned by restrictive legislations introduced in several countries with regards to border controls, asylum procedures and family reunification. In response, UNHCR has increased protection monitoring and will continue to promote safe access to territory and fair and efficient asylum procedures, and reinforce efforts to facilitate integration and find other durable solutions. UNHCR will also provide technical expertise, training, coordination with authorities and partners to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence and other protection risks in reception centres, and to ensure effective protection to unaccompanied and separated children.

2018 Budget and Expenditure in Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe | USD

Operation Pillar 1
Refugee programme
Pillar 2
Stateless programme
Pillar 3
Reintegration projects
Pillar 4
IDP projects
Belgium Regional Office Budget
Germany Budget
Greece Budget
Hungary Regional Office Budget
Italy Regional Office Budget
Sweden Regional Office Budget
Regional activities Budget
Total Budget

2018 Voluntary Contributions to Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe | USD

Earmarking / Donor Pillar 1
Refugee programme
Pillar 2
Stateless programme
Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe overall
European Union 910,71100 910,711
Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe overall subtotal 910,71100 910,711
Belgium Regional Office
Austria 00378,517 378,517
European Union 26,52200 26,522
France 652,04700 652,047
Ireland 267,23000 267,230
Luxembourg 0010,753 10,753
Private donors in France 28,40900 28,409
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 322,61700 322,617
Belgium Regional Office subtotal 1,296,8250389,270 1,686,094
Germany 22,2220663,569 685,791
Germany subtotal 22,2220663,569 685,791
European Union 231,345,08100 231,345,081
International Organization for Migration 99,76700 99,767
Private donors in France 341,29700 341,297
Private donors in Greece 23,14800 23,148
Private donors in Switzerland 505,05100 505,051
Switzerland 803,21300 803,213
Greece subtotal 233,117,55700 233,117,557
Hungary Regional Office
Croatia 0012,479 12,479
Czech Republic 0038,100 38,100
European Union 1,008,10800 1,008,108
Hungary 00332,728 332,728
Poland 0087,000 87,000
Romania 00103,521 103,521
Hungary Regional Office subtotal 1,008,1080573,828 1,581,936
Italy Regional Office
Italy 8,647,1830196,344 8,843,527
Private donors in France 227,53100 227,531
Private donors in Italy 24,69100 24,691
Spain 444,5240366,783 811,307
Italy Regional Office subtotal 9,343,9290563,127 9,907,056
Regional activities
Austria 0016,354 16,354
International Organization for Migration 24,94800 24,948
Regional activities subtotal 24,948016,354 41,302
Sweden Regional Office
Russian Federation 0200,0000 200,000
Sweden Regional Office subtotal 0200,0000 200,000
Total 245,724,300200,0002,206,148 248,130,448
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