GLOBAL EU Should Ramp Up Its Refugee Response

Lives at Stake as Winter Nears, Say Leading Humanitarian Organisations

Brussels ( 8 October 2015) – The European Union and its Member States must urgently scale up their responses to the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe as winter approaches before more lives get lost, five major humanitarian organizations said today.

As another high-level EU migration meeting convenes on October 8, the organizations – CARE International, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Welthungerhilfe, International Catholic Migration Committee (ICMC), and World Vision – called for a common and comprehensive approach that addresses root causes of displacement and prioritizes human rights.

“So far we've seen too little, too late for refugees at Europe’s borders,” said Jan Egeland, General Secretary of NRC. “As winter is coming, in order to prevent further suffering and loss of life, we urge European leaders to share responsibility, protect rights and address root causes of mass displacement.”

At the October 8 meeting in Luxembourg – a high-level conference focusing on the Eastern Mediterranean-Western Balkans route – interior and foreign ministers from EU member states will meet their counterparts from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, as well as Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. A key aim is to ensure an “orderly management of refugee and migration flows.”

The orderly management of migration is an important goal, but must include access to international protection for people fleeing war and persecution, the organizations said.

The five organizations presented conference participants with a list of recommendations to alleviate the crisis while protecting rights. First and foremost, they called on EU states to intensify their diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Syria. They also called for existing UN Security Council resolutions to be enforced.

“The stalling and inaction of political leaders has to stop if we are to see an end to the current suffering of Syrian civilians,” said Wolfgang Jamann, CEO of CARE International. “The EU must push for political action to achieve a sustainable peace.”

In the meantime, the EU and its Member States should further expand their humanitarian funding for the crisis, the organisations said. Despite recent increases in EU aid, only 41 per cent of UN appeals for Syria and neighboring countries have been met. Many refugees from Syria have left for Europe because legal restrictions and cuts in international assistance have made conditions in neighboring host states untenable.

Refugees from Syria make up 25% of the population in Lebanon and 10% of the population in Jordan. Turkey is hosting 1.9 million refugees, more than any other country in the world.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, just over 550,000 people have reached Europe by sea thus far in 2015, with most people coming from Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea. This represents about 0.1% of the EU’s population.

As part of a broader global effort, European states should aim to resettle or admit through other channels at least 5% of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria by the end of this year, or about 200,000 people, the organisations said. This would include more humanitarian visas, sponsorship programmes, family reunification programmes, and educational scholarships. These predictable, safe and legal routes are necessary to assist those in need and to minimize the need for smugglers.

At the same time, those who undertake the dangerous trip to Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and elsewhere are entitled to protection under international law. Rather than increasing restrictions and onerous procedures, all states must ensure access and humane treatment for people fleeing persecution or conflict. An asylum seeker cannot be returned to a “safe third country” unless they have a meaningful link with that country.

The European states that are receiving most of the refugees, such as Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary, need immediate support to receive, assist, register and screen new-arrivals, the organisations said. More relocations of these people to other EU Member States is required.

Ultimately, however, the EU must develop a holistic approach to the crisis that avoids shifting responsibility to states outside of the EU, the organisations stressed.

"Europe has the means and capacity to handle this crisis,” said Deirdre de Burca, World Vision’s European Director of Advocacy. “But to do so requires decisive action, unity, and political will.”

For more information, please contact:

CARE International: Anders Nordstoga, +47 90 84 24 58 and [email protected]

Norwegian Refugee Council: Valerie Ceccherini, +32 483 588 085 and [email protected]

World Vision: Deirdre de Burca, +32 483 71 4948 and [email protected]

ICMC: Petra Hueck, +32 2 22 79 729 and [email protected]

Welthungerhilfe: Marc Groß, +49 172 2938384 and [email protected]