Prime ministers and presidents have lots of solutions at their fingertips for solving the global refugee crisis – here are some of them. But while most governments turn their backs, people worldwide are finding clever and creative ways to welcome refugees using their local networks, skills and generosity.
1. Grant people access to asylum
Everyone should be allowed to enter another country to seek asylum – it’s a human right. The process should be fair and effective, but in reality many governments leave asylum-seekers without a final answer for years. Others are sent back to countries where their lives could be in real danger.
2. Sponsor refugees
Some countries allow groups of people to organise and raise money to bring refugees to their country and help them settle in. Nearly 300,000 people have come to Canada through sponsorship since the 1970s, and more countries, including the UK, Australia and Ireland, are gearing up to follow suit.
3. Reunite families
Having close family around can make all the difference to people adjusting to a different life and culture, often while recovering from deep trauma. Governments have an obligation to let refugees join family members who are already settled abroad through family reunification.
4. Provide medical visas
Refugees who have a serious medical condition can get life-saving treatment – if governments decide to grant them visas to a country where they can access it. About 200 refugees with life-threatening illnesses were being resettled in the United States during an average month until President Donald Trump announced a four-month ban on refugees in early 2017 and crushed many people’s hopes of recovery.
5. Allow people to study
Universities and schools can offer refugees visas to start or carry on their studies in another country. This opportunity can turn people’s lives around through completing their schooling, integrating, making a living and contributing to society. According to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, only 1 per cent of refugees currently attend university. A staggering 3.7 million refugee children and teenagers are not in school right now – five times the global average.
6. Embrace technology
A smartphone can be a lifeline if you’ve had to leave everything else behind, lost touch with friends and relatives, or are trying to find your way in a new country. Amnesty recently found that one of the top things refugees search for online is information about their own situation and the solutions open to them. Many tech-savvy groups are responding to that need through innovative projects ranging from online phrasebooks to smartphone recycling and launching start-ups for refugees.
7. Help newcomers settle in
Anyone who has lived abroad knows how difficult it can be to learn a new language, make friends, understand the culture, find somewhere to live or a new job. That’s why integration is paramount for refugees. In many parts of the world, a whole range of community initiatives have sprung up to welcome newcomers, such as offering advice about asylum, language classes, bicycle recycling schemes and support for women who are on their own.
8. Offer work visas or employment
For many refugees, getting a job is a vital solution to their problems. As well as surviving and supporting their families, it helps people maintain their self-respect and independence, and to integrate in a new community. Many countries offer refugees work permits. Businesses can potentially offer work visas to refugees with particular skills, as well as training and work experience.
9. Scale up resettlement
This is a crucial way that governments can protect refugees who need it most – people who have been tortured, for example, or women at risk of abuse. But it’s a heavily underused solution. Right now, around 1.2 million people urgently need resettlement, but only 189,300 refugees got the chance in 2016. And only 30 countries currently offer this option.
Extreme danger has forced 22.3 million people to flee abroad. Most are stuck in less wealthy countries which offer few opportunities and are struggling to cope. That’s why Amnesty is pushing for all countries, especially the wealthiest, to do their fair share by welcoming refugees in any way they can.