Chaos as the flow of refugess becomes a flood

November 24, 2016 23:21

Europe is facing its largest and most complex surge in migration since the Second World War. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees , over 590,000 people have arrived by sea so far in 2015.

European governments are facing massive practical and policy challenges in addressing the needs of refugees, integrating them and dealing with the impact on national economies.

There is at last a growing recognition (and worry) among governments and agencies that this flow of displaced people is not a short-term phenomenon but one that will grow.

As refugees continue arriving, their profile has changed. Traditionally the majority seeking entry to Europe through irregular channels were individual males. Now whole families are making the journey together, in some cases with elderly or disabled relatives and often with very young children.

While Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans make up the largest proportion, there remain high numbers of people whose eligibility for international protection is more complicated or who may be travelling for economic reasons. They too are vulnerable and need assistance.

Refugees are worried Europe's doors will soon close

For many who have fled their homelands there is little prospect of integration or even genuine security in the first country they arrive in.

Host countries around Syria are overwhelmed by the volume of arrivals. Turkey alone has taken in over two million refugees. Some countries are becoming increasingly hostile, tightening borders, or residency restrictions - in some cases effectively denying legal access to work.

The recent surge in arrivals on the north Aegean Islands, where World Jewish Relief is working with our Greek partners, is partly a result of refugees wanting to move before the sea conditions get even worse over winter.

Refugees are on the move because they are also worried that Europe's doors will soon close completely. The shocking events in Paris will inevitably and rightly mean tighter border controls. The news that two of the terrorists might have taken advantage of the refugee crisis adds another dimension to an already complex crisis.

Without the support of World Jewish Relief and other NGOs, the humanitarian situation would be even worse. But organisations like ours cannot be a substitute for the responsibilities of governments and security services to screen and register all those moving across borders.

We need to do more to encourage refugees to stay close to their home countries to be able to return eventually and rebuild their lives. To achieve this we at World Jewish Relief are helping refugees on the Turkish border by working with the local branch of the International Blue Crescent, providing back-to-school kits and winter clothing to Syrian refugee children. We hope this support will discourage families from moving on so quickly.

On recent visits to Greece, our emergencies team has seen that the recent increase in the flow of people has left the authorities completely overwhelmed. This in turn is creating chaos and panic among traumatised refugees.

We are now looking at doubling the scale of our operation in the country. This is only possible thanks to the tremendous support of the British Jewish community who have given so generously to our refugee appeal.

November 24, 2016 23:21

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