Aid agencies: Refugees should be protected not held at bay
25 June 2015 - As EU leaders meet to endorse the European Agenda on Migration on 25 and 26 June, aid agencies today warn against merely focusing on preventing refugees from reaching Europe as it will only lead to further deaths at sea.
Six aid agencies including CARE International and Norwegian Refugee Council appealed to European leaders to urgently scale up efforts to address the root causes of forced displacement, step up resettlement of refugees and offer them safe alternatives to the deadly routes they are being forced to take.
Until now, the focus of EU Member States' deliberations regarding the Mediterranean crisis has been largely on preventing refugees and migrants from reaching European shores. "We've already witnessed too many tragedies because Europe's policies make it nearly impossible for desperate refugees to seek asylum," said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. "We crack down on smugglers and their boats, but where are the safe routes for a refugee in need of protection?"
Today, almost 60 million people are fleeing wars and persecution worldwide—more than ever recorded before—with a corresponding increase in the deadly Mediterranean crossings. The first five months of this year saw an increase in migrant boat crossings by 114% compared to last year.
The crisis in the Middle East and especially the Syrian conflict, at Europe’s doorstep, has largely contributed to this global refugee crisis - the majority of those crossing the Mediterranean are from Syria and Eritrea. In Syria alone, over twelve million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
"The lack of political progress to end this horrific violence is terrible, European and world leaders must urgently intensify their diplomatic efforts to help define and facilitate a political process to end the war", said Gareth Price-Jones, Senior Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for CARE International. "They must also invest much more in assistance to prevent and respond to devastating and often long-lasting crisis in refugees' countries of origin and host countries".
Syria's neighbouring countries have shown outstanding hospitality and support to Syrian refugees, but are now bowing under the pressure of four million Syrian refugees. With less than 25% of the regional refugee response plan currently being funded, many people are not receiving the support they need. The number of Syrian refugees in Jordan is now equal to all of Denmark moving to the UK or France. In Lebanon, where one in four people are refugees from Syria, it is the equivalent of the US hosting the entire population of Germany. Only 6 % of the Syrian refugees have sought asylum in Europe.
"European Leaders must agree to scale up and share the responsibility to protect refugees and vulnerable migrants", said Jan Egeland. "Europe gave birth to the refugee convention. We cannot oversee its slow death". The number of resettlement places in the EU should be increased as proposed by the European Commission, and Member States must also consider increasing humanitarian admissions, family reunification places, offering temporary protection and other safe immigration options.
- Norwegian Refugee Council
- CARE International
- Un ponte per…
- Médecins du monde Grèce
- British Refugee Council
- Coordination SUD
Notes to editors
 Source: UNHCR