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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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018

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

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2017 {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017],"budget":[54.63938242,63.26919003,68.06467853,110.92231352,386.522619389,336.889691428],"expenditure":[39.96859563,50.03311406,53.1706932,82.16008297,240.0086692,274.12353993]} {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017],"p1":[51.61922791,59.15260142,64.25408379,104.603939475,382.144094999,333.136415548],"p2":[3.02015451,4.11658861,3.81059474,5.127210913,3.39118021,2.97903254],"p3":[null,null,null,1.191163132,0.98734418,0.77424334],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017],"p1":[37.52905013,46.80158789,50.31378371,77.86368722,236.40963004,270.97183222],"p2":[2.4395455,3.23152617,2.85690949,3.24322882,2.63812679,2.47224807],"p3":[null,null,null,1.05316693,0.96091237,0.67945964],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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People of Concern - 2017

[["Refugees",2435552],["Refugee-like situation",6054],["Asylum-seekers",989182],["Stateless",408971],["Others of concern",6008]]
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Response in 2017

In 2017, some 172,300 refugees and migrants are known to have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, including 119,350 to Italy, 29,700 to Greece and 22,100 to Spain. Overall, the number of arrivals in Europe decreased by 53 per cent compared 2016, largely due to a reduction in the numbers from Turkey to Greece (83 per cent reduction in 2017) and from northern Africa to Italy (34 per cent reduction in 2017). The over-all number of asylum applications lodged across in 38 European countries was 625,000, representing a 49 per cent decrease compared to 2016.
With mounting restrictions to access territory, refugees and migrants have attempted to use different and, at times, more dangerous routes to reach Europe. Aside from an increase in arrivals to Cyprus and Spain, UNHCR has also observed a larger number of arrivals through the Black Sea, a particularly treacherous route, where a number of concerns regarding disembarkation and reception remain. With access to Hungary having been almost completely curtailed, refugees and migrants attempted to re-enter the European Union (EU) in Croatia, passing through Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.
During the reporting period UNHCR focused on safeguarding asylum space; access to territory and acceptable reception conditions and continued its protection work through monitoring to gather evidence, advocacy, legal aid and strategic litigation, public information as well as individual interventions when possible; prevented and resolved statelessness; and prevented and responded to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
Key priorities for the subregion in 2017 remained 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. 


The operation in Greece is presented in a separate country chapter. Other UNHCR operations in the subregion are presented below. 

Anti-foreigner sentiment continued to grow in Central Europe in 2017, even if the number of asylum-seekers significantly decreased as compared to 2016. The protection space shrank, particularly in the Visegrad Four countries, where politicians’ anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric achieved new dimensions. Physical and legal barriers maintained, with credible reports of denial of asylum at the border in several countries like Bulgaria, Croatia and Hungary, in some cases linked to excessive use of violence by police. Irregular crossing of borders resulted in casualties. Integration programmes continued to be insuccessful, while most of the asylum-seekers and refugees tried to move onwards searching for more conducive environments.
Against this background, UNHCR engaged with authorities, media and civil society to defend the right to seek asylum, the right to appropriate reception conditions, access to fair and quality procedures, and support for integration including access to health care and education. UNHCR also opposed the systematic detention of asylum-seekers, promoted the use of alternatives to detention and fought the detention of children.
UNHCR promoted new partnerships and innovative models to facilitate integration, including to explore further cooperation with private sector and municipalities. There were some important successes in access to education for children particularly in Bulgaria and Croatia where the authorities adopted an integration plan for 2017-2019.
UNHCR coordinated and supported judicial engagement in the region. In several countries, such as in Hungary and Poland, strategic litigation interventions complemented UNHCR’s advocacy efforts to improve access to territory, to reduce the use of detention, and to limit the number of substantive reports of use of excessive police force at the borders.
The Office organised workshops in Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland to strengthen the capacity of legal experts, including as regards litigation before the European Court of Human Rights and the EU Court of Justice. As of the end of the year UNHCR had intervened directly through third party interventions in more than ten cases.
Regarding statelessness, some progress was made in particular in Bulgaria where as a result of UNHCR’s sustained lobbying and expert support, a secondary legislation establishing detailed rules for the SDP was adopted. By the end of 2017 Bulgaria had granted status to 48 people.
As a part of the UNHCR pilot for the multi-year multi-partner planning, UNHCR in Northern Europe developed a five-year strategy together with partners and stakeholders, which allowed strengthening engagement with civil society and the private sector to explore ways of facilitating integration. In the reporting period, UNHCR sought to prevent restrictions and maintain standards in law, policy and practice by employing an integrated protection-strategic communications response, comprising detailed and principled law comments; presentations of these to parliamentary committees; bilateral meetings with Ministers and policy makers; coordination with NGO partners on advocacy messages; public speaking; strategic media presence; and training of lawyers and decision-makers with high reach out. As a result, UNHCR’s positions were widely known and some of the most drastic proposals were averted. To address multiple challenges with child protection systems in the region, UNHCR initiated a child protection innovation lab to be fully implemented in 2018, engaging all stakeholders involved in the reception of UASC, including government interlocutors, the Ombudsman’s Office for Children and UASC, to develop a pilot process to address challenges and gaps in the reception system of UASC in Sweden.
In Italy, UNHCR continued to advise governmental counterparts, Parliamentarians and other stakeholders on policy and legislative developments and provided technical support to the authorities with a view to strengthening their capacity to ensure adequate responses to the needs of people of concern. Great progress has been made in strengthening disembarkation procedures; providing new arrivals with information on international protection; as well as protection, identification and referral of people with specific needs. Counselling to people of concern was improved by provision of information on available services through a toll-free number. In the area of SGBV prevention and response, UNHCR entered a number of partnerships with local NGOs enhancing front-line operators and cultural mediators’ capacity on SGBV issues and promoting access to sexual and reproductive health and to services for SGBV survivors. Pilot projects to support the identification and training of guardians for UASC were tested and will be rolled out more widely in 2018.
Child protection was also a major priority in Cyprus, where UNHCR’s interventions facilitated the enrolment of all unaccompanied children in schools and the adoption of a more extensive assessment of their educational level and abilities. UNHCR also organized empowerment workshops for unaccompanied girls.
In Malta, UNHCR promoted social inclusion of refugees through extensive support provided to create the first refugee youth organization in Malta; the establishment of other refugee led organizations; training to refugee focal points; establishing of a working group on integration and engaged governmental job agencies and private enterprises to identify opportunities for refugees.
Spain has been marked by a doubling of the asylum applications to 32,000 in 2017 and a tripling of sea arrivals to the Andalusian coast (25,000). In consequence, UNHCR consolidated its protection presence at the main arrival points leading to better understanding of protection needs and facilitated access to asylum through better information and counselling.
All Offices in Western Europe focussed on  improving reception conditions and preventing SGBV, finding alternatives to detention, enhancing quality of asylum procedures, involving in judicial engagement, ensuring UASC’s protection, increasing legal pathways including family reunification; strengthening integration and eradicating statelessness.
In France where more reception places had to be created, UNHCR supported the identification and follow-up of asylum-seekers with special needs, continued visiting reception centres and offered technical expertise to the authorities. In Calais and Dunkirk, following the closure of camps, UNHCR actively followed-up on UASC protection, informing them on their rights and supporting their transfer to the United Kingdom under Dublin and Dubs programme. Thanks to UNHCR’s interventions in Austria, additional facilities for single women were created. In Belgium, UNHCR engaged the reception agency to better prevent and respond to SGBV in reception facilities.
In Germany, thanks to the engagement of the government, the international refugee policies, in particular in the preparations for a Global Compact on Refugees, could be further enhanced. Furthermore, UNHCR contributed to keeping resettlement and humanitarian admission on the political agenda and to an increased openness for significantly increasing the numbers of admissions.

Operational Environment and Strategy 

While more than 1 million people risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 in search of safety and protection in Europe, the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement of 18 March 2016 led to a significant fall in the number of arrivals by sea to Greece. The number of arrivals by sea in Italy remained consistent as compared to 2015. 

Some 556,000 applications for asylum had been received by European Union Member States in 2016 to date. Although many countries received less new applications in the first half of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, Iceland (+900%), Slovenia (+706%), Croatia (+390%), Greece (+254%) and Germany (+223%) received significantly more new applications. Germany received the highest number of new applications in the European Union – more than 360,000 as at June 2016. 
The ongoing large numbers of arrivals continues to challenge the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), which requires EU Member States to act collectively and in line with their regional and international obligations. Some EU Member States have introduced restrictive measures, notably in the terms of family reunification, border controls and detention. UNHCR continues to engage in advocacy with respect to the European Commission’s proposals for the reform of the CEAS.
In 2017, UNHCR will also continue to focus on: safeguarding asylum space and ensuring access to territory and acceptable reception conditions; supporting authorities with registration, reception and provision of assistance, as well as referrals to relevant services; building and maintaining effective and fair asylum procedures; securing durable solutions; preventing and resolving statelessness; providing technical and functional support to government authorities; and building capacity, particularly in terms of emergency response. Furthermore activities related to SGBV prevention and response, child protection with a particular emphasis on the situation of UASC, as well as integration will be prioritized within the subregion.

Response and Implementation

In 2017 UNHCR will continue to respond to the refugee situation in Europe, strengthening cooperation with relevant government counterparts, European Union institutions and agencies, international partners, NGOs, volunteer groups and local communities.
In Central Europe, following border closures in the first quarter of 2016, UNHCR adjusted its operational presence to strengthen protection monitoring and related advocacy interventions, while significantly reducing aid delivery. Changes in the asylum legislation in Hungary, alongside the dismantling of integration programmes in the country, had a deterrence effect, and only small numbers of asylum-seekers were admitted with bottlenecks created at border crossing points. Refugees and migrants, albeit in smaller numbers, continue to attempt to transit through Hungary and, to a lesser extent, Croatia and Slovenia, often using smuggling routes to reach destination countries. UNHCR will continue to work with governments, partners and civil society to strengthen asylum systems and to assist the most vulnerable people of concern, including unaccompanied and separated children, and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

In Northern Europe, UNHCR will continue to focus on: ensuring access to territory and asylum procedures, including non-penalization for irregular entry; enhancing the quality and efficiency of asylum procedures, with particular focus on child asylum claims; facilitating integration; and preventing and ending statelessness. UNHCR will work with civil society and the private sector to facilitate integration and family reunification, particularly in the Baltic States. In the Nordic States, UNHCR will strengthen strategic litigation and advocacy to ensure that asylum law and policy continue to meet regional and international standards.

In Southern Europe, UNHCR will reinforce efforts related to Dublin III discretionary and family reunification clauses. The Office will also support efforts to improve registration procedures, reception conditions, counselling, and integration programmes in countries of first arrival in the European Union. In Italy, in particular, UNHCR will provide emergency preparedness support to the Government in the event of an increase in arrivals. In 2016 sea arrivals of UASC have almost doubled compared to last year and UNHCR will specifically support the Government‘s efforts for UASC and on child protection. In Malta, the Office will advocate for a discontinuation of detention of asylum seekers upon arrival. In Cyprus, UNHCR will support the Government’s efforts to improve reception standards and strengthen asylum capacity. UNHCR will also continue to advocate for finalization of Portugal’s accession to the 1961 Convention. Advocacy for accession to both of the statelessness conventions will also be priorities in Cyprus and Malta. 

In Western Europe UNHCR will continue to focus on ensuring safe access to territory and asylum procedures, and reinforce efforts to facilitate integration and find other durable solutions. UNHCR will also support efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence and other protection risks in reception centres, and to ensure that effective protection is available to unaccompanied and separated children, through training and provision of technical expertise in coordination with authorities and partners. Although most countries in Western Europe have adequate asylum procedures in place, the large increase in the number of claims has placed pressure on these systems and led to backlogs. UNHCR will therefore strengthen its support to national authorities in the management of quality asylum systems.

2017 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
Greece Budget
Hungary Regional Office Budget
Italy Regional Office Budget
Sweden Regional Office Budget
Regional activities Budget
Total Budget

2017 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 90,12000 90,120
Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe overall subtotal 90,12000 90,120
Belgium Regional Office
Austria 00350,677 350,677
France 637,01100 637,011
Germany 19,2870564,572 583,859
Ireland 235,18700 235,187
Luxembourg 0010,239 10,239
Private donors in France 0053,318 53,318
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 251,31200 251,312
Belgium Regional Office subtotal 1,142,7970978,805 2,121,602
European Union 200,366,23900 200,366,239
Private donors in France 398,18000 398,180
Private donors in Greece 23,58500 23,585
Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 25,97400 25,974
Private donors in the United States of America 315,00000 315,000
Republic of Korea 800,00000 800,000
Spain 1,892,87000 1,892,870
Greece subtotal 203,821,8480100,000 203,921,848
Hungary Regional Office
Croatia 0024,957 24,957
Czech Republic 0038,100 38,100
European Union 410,11000 410,110
Hungary 00285,867 285,867
Poland 0065,000 65,000
Private donors in the United States of America 62,18600 62,186
Romania 00103,521 103,521
Hungary Regional Office subtotal 472,2960517,445 989,741
Italy Regional Office
Italy 10,329,7480175,390 10,505,138
Malta 53,31800 53,318
Private donors in Italy 21,31800 21,318
Private donors in the United States of America 300,00000 300,000
Spain 439,3960325,000 764,396
Italy Regional Office subtotal 11,143,7790500,390 11,644,169
Regional activities
Germany 268,56700 268,567
International Organization for Migration 91,80500 91,805
Regional activities subtotal 360,37200 360,372
Sweden Regional Office
Russian Federation 0200,0000 200,000
Sweden Regional Office subtotal 0200,0000 200,000
Total 217,031,212200,0002,096,640 219,327,852