Fear will not solve Europe’s refugee crisis

The EU-Turkey deal will be a nightmare to implement according to many NGOs and according to UNHCR. Pushing back refugees to Turkey only increases arrivals on other shores. Italy has recently seen the number of asylum-seekers arriving by boat from Lybia increase. Other routes through the Black Sea and Romania are being used.

In an excellent article entitled Put the Refugee Crisis in Context, published on Devex.com on March 29, Melissa Flemming (1) explains why Europe should and can do much more to assist refugees and welcome them.

The 1 million refugees  who arrived since August 2015 represent a mere 0.2 percent of Europe’s population of 500 million. « Over 90 percent came from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost all of them said they left because of violence and war. Those who had been living as refugees in neighboring countries said they did not have the means to educate and feed their children.

Until now unfortunately and despite the daily humanitarian tragedies, Europe has been unable to deal with the crisis. If the international conference in London in February gathered unprecedented funding pledges for programs in and around Syria, these pledges have not yet turned into real funds.

UNHCR says, funding programs on the field is not enough. More countries should take a greater share of this refugee population « especially at a time when many are shutting their own borders. » The organisation has encouraged many countries to offer many more resettlement or humanitarian admission places to at least 480’000 vulnreable Syrian refugees (10 percent of the 4.8 million Syrian refugees). The recent U.N. conference in Geneva on March 30, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi have appealed to countries to increase their resettlement quotas but the result was truly disappointing with an increase of only 6’000 places thanks to Italy, Sweden and the United-States (2). Commenting on the outcome, aid groups Oxfam and the Norwegian Refugee Council said governments had shown « a shocking lack of political and moral leadership. »

Today Filippo Grandi expressed his deep concerns about the tragic humanitarian situation, hoping that Europe will come back to its humanitarian fundamentals and tradition. Fear has pushed Europe away from its humanitarian values. Melissa Flemming believes however that:

If the world came together now to step up efforts to stop the war in Syria, and in the meantime meaningfully helped the people who fled from it, there would be no need to erect new borders and turn people back on boats. Refugees would no longer represent a crisis, but a group of people who have been given access to a safe and dignified life in exile.


(1) Melissa Flemming is head of communications and chief spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She leads communications efforts around the globe.

(2) Prior to the conference countries had pledged 179,000 places since 2013, refugee agency figures show. At the end of the meeting only 6,000 more places were offered.


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