European leaders must urgently agree a comprehensive and united response to the arrival of thousands of refugees in European countries. Current European policy measures on refugees are inconsistent and contradictory.
The President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has called for a “swift, determined and comprehensive” response by European Union states to the refugee crisis. But when EU interior ministers met on September 14 they failed to rise to that challenge.
The ministers stepped back from taking the decisions needed to ensure refugees’ rights are respected and their humanitarian needs are met. In particular, strenuous efforts must be made by all states across Europe to directly ensure refugee children and their families receive appropriate treatment, including food, shelter, sanitation, education, psychosocial support and protection from abuse..
Europe needs united response
“It’s deeply disturbing that it took images of drowned children and babies sleeping on railway tracks to shock Europe’s leaders into action,” said Plan International chief executive Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen. “Some are now responding generously, but this crisis will not be solved until all countries agree to treat refugees humanely and afford them the rights they deserve.”
As an organisation founded in response to the plight of children orphaned by the Spanish civil war in 1937, Plan International also calls for a renewed, energetic effort by all states to find a political solution to the Syria conflict.
In parallel, a large increase in humanitarian assistance is needed for the millions of refugees already in countries bordering Syria, such as Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, and other states nearby sheltering Syrians, such as Egypt.
EU states cannot ignore the vast humanitarian challenge in front of them. Plan International reiterates its call for that challenge to be met with generosity. We support the Norwegian government’s call for a donor conference to coordinate a response to this crisis.
EU states cannot ignore the vast humanitarian challenge in front of them
All states must work together to agree durable solutions for the long-term settlement of refugees fleeing the Middle East, and the solution does not lie with European states alone, added Ms Albrectsen.This crisis will not be stemmed by stop-gap policies, intermittent funding and buck-passing.
“I am concerned for the future of all Syria’s children, but particularly for girls, who are often at highest risk of mistreatment, early and forced marriage and lost educational opportunity when they become refugees,” said Ms Albrectsen.
Plan International is responding directly to the needs of Syrian refugees in Egypt and is working though partners to provide assistance in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The main focus of Plan International’s response is children’s education and providing support for their emotional needs. Our programme experts are actively assessing how best to deliver further assistance to refugees in Europe and the Middle East. Technical specialist are in the field now.
Protect development funding to protect children
Plan International believes that extra funding for the refugee crisis in Europe must not come at the expense of humanitarian assistance to Syria and neighbouring states, nor risk the development funding vital to securing the future of poorer states.
According to the UN a quarter of those seeking refuge in Europe are children. More than 100,000 children have claimed asylum in Europe in the first half of this year. More than 300,000 people have risked their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea this year and at least 2,600 have died in the attempt.
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