European Crisis Response: Reaching out to the most vulnerable

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November 19, 2015

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There are heartbreaking sidebars to the main story of the refugee crisis in Europe. Children are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. The elderly, who manage to make their way over long trails, are getting lost. People of incredible fortitude pushing loved ones in wheelchairs over rough trails, mile after mile. With winter coming, taking care of more than 800,000 refugees who have already arrived in Europe is a task of enormous proportion. And the number continues to grow. An estimated 3,000 – 8,000 people arrive in Greece alone every day. UNHCR is on the scene in Greece and in locations throughout Europe, helping refugees register, reuniting families, and protecting refugees’ rights. (Even monitoring conditions where refugees are being detained.) Gifts from UNHCR donors are providing emergency shelter, food, water, and healthcare, as well as basic necessities like blankets and sleeping mats. These photos tell the story.

Beghum’s Family — Found!


An elderly grandmother, Beghum had made it all the way from Afghanistan to Serbia, but there she was, lost and alone, with nothing but her cane and a small bag. And no way to ask for help.


But UNHCR was there, and with partner organizations, managed to find her family and get them all back together. So far, UNHCR and its partners have reunited dozens of children and elders who have become separated from those they love.

Seeking Those with Special Needs

Diana Image Blog Post

Diana, a UNHCR protection officer, walks the fence along the border between Serbia and Croatia, looking for people with special needs, like the elderly, pregnant women, women with infants and small children, and those with injuries or disabilities. She makes sure they are connected with aid as quickly as possible.


Wheelchairs, crutches, and canes are a common sight along the refugee routes. Alexandra, one of 442 UNHCR protection officers currently deployed along the routes in Europe, makes sure these two Syrian brothers are able to go on.

 Gabriel* Gets a Checkup


Gabriel, who was an English teacher in Syria, was waiting patiently in a line at the Presovo reception center in Serbia, until a UNHCR protection officer recognized that he needed medical attention.


He was one of dozens checked over at an UNHCR-funded emergency medical station there. * Not his real name.

A Chance to Warm Up

As winter approaches, it is growing even harder to stay warm and dry during long waits at registration and transit centers.  UNHCR has already issued almost 150,000 thermal blankets, and more than 80,000 raincoats and is constructing and winterizing more registration facilities to help refugees, like this mother and her children, stay warm and dry.


Our donor´s support is a big part of these stories. If you haven´t joined USA for UNHCR yet, please become a monthly donor today. Your monthly gift means healthcare, education, safe shelter and a hopeful future for vulnerable refugees like the ones you have just met reading this blog post.

Photo credits: © UNHCR/M. Henley