Friday

18th Aug 2017

Opinion

Let refugees help the EU

To solve the Syrian refugee crisis the EU will have to take a leadership role and work effectively with refugee and diaspora communities who can serve as agents of change.

Over the past six years, five million Syrians have been forced to become refugees. The number of first-time asylum applicants in Europe increased from 563,000 in 2014 to almost 1.26 million in 2015.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

With the continuing brutal onslaught on Aleppo, the Assad regime has made clear it is willing to target civilians to achieve its goals.

The lack of decisive Western action to protect civilians during the conflict has taken innocent lives and catalysed the largest refugee crisis since World War II.

There is no doubt European states should keep putting their efforts into addressing the root causes of the refugee crisis.

As long as this carnage in Syria is allowed to continue, refugees will continue to arrive on European shores.

Protecting Syrian civilians from air strikes would save lives, create the necessary conditions to slow down the refugee exodus and give millions of Syrians hope for a stable Syria to return to.

But now, more than ever, addressing the root causes is not enough.

The management of the refugee crisis from the EU has been confused at best. Most EU states have taken an “every man for himself” approach to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Germany and Sweden have been providing a more coordinated and efficient response, fulfilling their mandate as defined in international law conventions and coordinating work with different actors such as civil society and humanitarian organisations.

Yet we still see harrowing images of families who escaped war and survived the perils of crossing the sea left stranded on Greek islands, arbitrary detention of minors, and xenophobic rhetoric in the news.

With the EU policy framework and the European Agenda on Migration and the Action Plan on the Integration of third country nationals, the EU has the means and the tools to address the refugee crisis. But it requires the will.

Involve the youth

Among the many ways the EU could and should face these challenges, there is one that has been too often overlooked – engaging refugee and diaspora communities as key stakeholders.

In the EU, more than four in five (83 percent) of first-time asylum seekers in 2015 were under 35 years old, and those aged 18–34 years represented slightly more than half (53 percent) of the total number of first-time applicants. Nearly 29 percent were younger than 18 years old.

This age distribution was common in almost all the EU states, with the largest share of applicants usually being those aged 18–34. Therefore, the inclusion and participation of refugees, especially youth, in the decision making processes related with decisions that affect them is key for the development of long-term, sustainable, efficient and coordinated solutions.

Throughout Europe and neighbouring countries, self-organised refugee groups are sharing the burden of reception and integration, engaging with local communities and working on a range of issues.

They are very often involved in resettlement and private sponsorship schemes, in integration programs and even in reception efforts. They are usually well structured, even if managed on a voluntary basis.

For example the Young Republic, a self-organised refugee organisation, supports young Syrian refugees in their democratic participation, civic engagement and social inclusion in their host communities in Sweden.

The EU, together with UNHCR, IOM and NGOs, should provide a space for refugee groups to be heard and participate in every level of the decision making in a continuous effort to find shared solutions.

Participation is a right

In light of the EU Council meeting on migration this week, we want to tell EU governments that refugee groups are sharing the burden of reception and integration, are engaging with local communities, and working on all issues from education to social inclusion.

We, Syrian refugees and diaspora, want to be part of the solution to the refugee crisis. This includes embracing our responsibility to work alongside our hosting European communities to protect and instil the values – democracy, freedom for all and rule of law – we have sought so desperately back in Syria.

Participation is a human right and a pillar to a pluralistic and democratic society.

We are eager and ready to do our part to address this crisis. We have solutions that reflect the concerns and political objectives of those who are affected most.

Syrians are best placed to determine policy about Syrians and Syrian refugees. This crisis is our day-to-day reality and our involvement at every stage of the decision-making process as partners and experts needs to be a priority.

With no immediate end in sight for the Syrian crisis, it is of utmost importance that the EU states carefully consider what they can do to protect, educate, and empower refugees, not only from Syria but from around the world, as experts and legitimate counterparts.

Mohammed Alsaud is an award-winning Syrian activist, trainer and social entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and chairman of The Young Republic, a youth organization for the Syrian diaspora in Europe.

Europe can stop Syria's suffering

A survivor of one of Syria's death camps says Europe can do more to end the "industrial scale" suffering being inflicted by Assad's regime.

Aleppo envoy left gloomy by EU summit

A plea for EU help by an official from Aleppo, the Syrian city under attack by Syria and Russia, failed to prompt action on Thursday.

Aleppo's fate overshadows EU summit

EU leaders called for evacuations and aid, but admitted "we have to stand there watching", as Syrian regime, Russia, and Iran committed what some called "war crimes".

Magazine

Refugee crisis, the vain search for solidarity

The EU's migration policy in 2016 was marked by a record number of deaths at the Mediterranean and deep rifts among member states on how to handle asylum.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The return of the chlorinated chicken

Britain has only just started on the path towards a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, but you can already see the same all-too-familiar disagreements.

Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis

If you were to judge events purely on the US media's headlines, you would be forgiven for wondering if the Polish government had anything to do with its recent controversial judicial reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  2. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  3. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  4. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  5. Russian power most feared in Europe
  6. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  7. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  8. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  2. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  3. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  5. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  6. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  7. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  9. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  10. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy