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Europe: protect refugees, a collective responsibility
03 February 2016

A refugee boy standing among police in Budapest, Hungary (Kristof Holvenyi)
The phenomenon of refugees is a global one, and we must respond globally.

Rome, 3 February 2016 -- The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is seriously concerned by the disjointed reaction and arbitrary and deleterious security measures EU Member States have adopted as a response to the numbers of people fleeing to Europe these last few weeks. Refoulement and the closing of borders are among the most serious violations of treaties and conventions signed by the EU and Member States.

Today we are witnessing a global crisis of forced displacement. Nearly 60 million people are on the move, for the first time surpassing the number of displaced people during World War II. Europe is facing the consequences of the war in Syria and other crises worldwide. 

Recently, more and more people are falling victim to the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe; 42 people – 10 of whom were children – drowned in the last two Aegean Sea ship wrecks off the shores of Greece. 

Sweden has planned the repatriation of 80,000 asylum seekers. The UK has refused to accept 3,000 unaccompanied minors. The Netherlands is calling to push refugees arriving to Greece back to Turkey as a safe third country. On Wednesday, Denmark approved the government's seizure of asylum seekers' belongings. Switzerland has decided to impose a 10 percent tax on the salaries of refugees for the next 10 years. 

Six EU countries –Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Germany and France – have restored internal border controls and suspended Schengen, putting into question the very lynchpin on which the EU was founded. Populist politicians in western Europe, eg. Denmark, are questioning the 1951 Refugee Convention.

"EU Member States must stop taking impromptu unilateral measures, evading the responsibility to protect people seeking safety. The phenomenon of refugees is a global one, and we must respond globally," said JRS International Director, Rev Thomas H Smolich SJ.

Last year, more than 1,000,000 refugees and migrants arrived to Europe, 92 percent of whom came from the top 10 refugee producing countries – 56 percent from Syria alone – and all of whom deserve protection. Just this January, 45,361 people passed into Europe, and another 156 drowned in the Mediterranean. The UN refugee agency is preparing for another 1,000,000 people to enter through the eastern routes throughout 2016. 

Certain countries with larger influxes of people are struggling to cope, due to the lack of an adequate relocation scheme. For example, on average, 1,750 refugees have been arriving to Greece via Turkey each day. During a crisis of this size and complexity, countries need to coordinate and work together in order fairly distribute the new arrivals and facilitate integration.

Beyond international law, welcoming and integrating refugees is also of best interest to states. For example, refugees who are integrated into societies, such as Syrians into Germany, will contribute tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars into the economy and/or contributions to the state over the course of their lifetimes. 

JRS calls for a more orderly and humane process surrounding the movement of people. While JRS urges all countries to increase the number of resettlement places available for refugees, JRS particularly calls on EU Member states to: 

create safe pathways, such as allotting temporary humanitarian visas to Europe, to reduce the reliance on smuggling networks;

increase family unification processes; and

improve the capacity of reception centres.

Press Contact Information
Jacquelyn Pavilon
+39 06 69 868 609