A deeper look into Europe's refugee crisis

World Jewish Relief's Chief Executive, Paul Anticoni, takes a deeper look into Europe's current refugee crisis and how we're responding to the growing needs of refugees as the crisis expands. 

The ongoing surge in migration into the European Union is rapidly becoming the largest and most complex facing Europe since the Second World War. According to the UNHCR, over 590,000 have arrived by sea so far in 2015.

European governments are facing massive practical and policy challenges in determining and addressing the immediate and longer-term needs of refugees and those seeking asylum.

There is at last a growing recognition (and worry) amongst European governments and international agencies that this flow of refugees is not a short term phenomenon but one that is potentially set to grow.

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

While Syrians, Iraqi’s and Afghans continue to make up the largest contingent of refugees, there remain large numbers of people seeking access to Europe whose eligibility for international protection is more complex or who may be travelling primarily for economic reasons.

And we must not neglect the fact that over 12 million people inside Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance and over 4 million have fled the country.

For many of those that have fled there is little or no real prospect of integration or even real security in their countries of first destination. Consequently, many are choosing to move on to Europe.

Some host countries around Syria are overwhelmed by the volume of arrivals and some are becoming increasingly hostile, tightening borders, visa or residency restrictions and in some cases effectively denying legal access to work.

It would appear the recent surge in arrivals onto the North Aegean Islands, where World Jewish Relief’s partners are working, are partly a result of refugees wanting to move before the sea conditions get even worse. Refugees are also worried that Europe’s doors will close completely at some stage soon further encouraging immediate mobilisation.

We are continuing to assist refugees on the Turkish border working with the Turkish branch of the International Blue Crescent. Our support, providing back-to-school kits and winter packages for Syrian refugee children has been gratefully received. We hope this support will discourage families from moving on so quickly. 

Recent visits to Greece by our Emergencies team has highlighted that with the recent dramatic increase in flow of refugees both onto the Aegean Islands the Macedonian borders, the Greek authorities are completely overwhelmed. This is creating chaos and panic, particularly for recently arrived and traumatised refugees.

Having just survived a highly risky boat crossing, greater support is necessary to support this scale of arrivals. We are looking therefore at doubling the scale of our programming capacity in Greece on top of our medical and shelter distributions that we are already in the midst of. This is only possible thanks to the overwhelming support of the community.

If you would like to know more about our work supporting refugees, please contact us on info@worldjewishrelief.org/ 020 8736 1250

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