What can Europe do to welcome refugees?

By Kristin Hulaas Sunde

Europe’s leaders are failing to give refugees the welcome and support they’re entitled to. Here's what Amnesty is asking for.

We want Europe’s leaders to open up safe and legal routes for refugees so they can reach the EU and seek asylum without having to cross the sea in overcrowded boats or walk hundreds of miles carrying their children and all their belongings.

And instead of handing over their life savings to smugglers, they could spend their money on starting a new life in the EU.

There are several things countries can do to give people safe passage to sanctuary, and none of them are mutually exclusive. These are the options Amnesty is pushing for: 

Refugees and migrants cross the border from Greece into Macedonia, 24 August 2015. © Amnesty International Refugees and migrants cross the border from Greece into Macedonia, 24 August 2015. © Amnesty International
Where there is a will there's a way: A man crosses the border from Greece into Macedonia, 24 August 2015. © Amnesty International

1. Resettlement

This is a UN system designed to protect the most vulnerable refugees of all, including torture survivors and people with urgent medical needs. It allows people travel to another country, usually by plane, and settle down for good. An estimated 1.38 million people will need this globally over the next two years. EU countries can do their fair share by opening their doors to at least 300,000 refugees by the end of 2017.

2. Humanitarian visas

Many refugees don’t have all the documents necessary to get a normal travel visa. By giving them a humanitarian visa, EU countries can allow refugees to travel safely and apply for asylum when they arrive.

3. Family reunification

This allows refugees outside Europe to reunite with relatives who are already in the EU. Why force someone to endure a long, dangerous journey if they already have a family that can support them in Europe?

Refugees and migrants protest at Keleti train station, Budapest, Hungary, 3 September 2015. © Amnesty International Refugees and migrants protest at Keleti train station, Budapest, Hungary, 3 September 2015. © Amnesty International
Children and families hoping to seek asylum in northern Europe protest against being stuck at Keleti train station, Budapest, Hungary, 3 September 2015. © Amnesty International

A bit of perspective on migration

If all of this sounds like a challenge, it’s time for a bit of perspective: Turkey now hosts more than 2.2 million Syrian refugees. The world’s largest refugee camp is Dadaab in Kenya, home to around 350,000 mainly Somali people.

The world total for resettlement places offered to Syria’s more than 4.3 million refugees stands at a pitiful 162.151.
Amnesty International

And so far, the world total for resettlement places offered to Syria’s more than 4.3 million refugees stands at a pitiful 162,151.

With a population of more than 500 million, and with an annual combined GDP of €14 thousand billion, Europe can and should take on a fair share of the responsibility for tackling the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time.