Responding to the refugee crisis

refugeeIMPACT deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan has said that the current refugee crisis demands a pan-European humanitarian response. “This refugee crisis is something that hasn’t happened overnight, it is something that has been building, it needs a pan-European response with members of every European State playing their full part in this,” he said.

In a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan in May this year, Kevin expressed IMPACT’s concern about the emerging crisis on Europe’s southern borders. “Europe’s position cannot be limited to border management, it must also include a humanitarian response” he said.

Kevin added, “IMPACT is calling on the Irish Government to use its influence in Europe to help initiate a fundamental change in approach. The starting point to a resolution of this crisis is the immediate restoration of adequately-funded search and rescue missions. Beyond that refugees and asylum seekers require safe, legal routes to secure living environments in Europe. Significant commitments are required from nations across the EU to achieve this. IMPACT is calling for Ireland to be proactive in meeting its responsibilities in this regard.”

Dangerous border

Reflecting on the tragedy last April, during which up to 900 people died south of Lampedusa, Sicily, IMPACT organiser Keivan Jackson wrote in the IMPACT blog that the tragedy compounded the Mediterranean’s status as “the most dangerous border in the world.”

Similar tragedies were recorded throughout the summer months, with more than 2,500 people losing their lives as they attempt to flee conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East, most notably from Syria. The human cost was driven home sharply last week as the picture of the three year old Aylan Kurdi was beamed around the globe.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has called on EU members to admit up to 200,000 refugees as part of a binding “mass relocation programme”, while the EU is due to formulate plans to relocate refugees across the EU.

More than 36,000 people signed an online petition calling on the Government “to commit to allowing thousands not hundreds of refugees seek refuge in Ireland.” The Irish Government has announced this week that it is increasing the number of refugees the state will take.

Practical help

With a more focused response now evident in EU states, many people are looking at how they can offer practical assistance to the thousands of families seeking safety in Europe.


  • Concern Syria Programme – you can donate to the Irish charity’s appeal here
  • Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity is raising money here
  • Irish group Disaster Tech Lab are sending a team to the islands between Greece and Turkey. Their goal is to establish working internet and communications at the sites. You can donate here, while the group are also looking for Irish volunteers
  • The UNHCR can be donated to directly here
  • Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), who have three ships operating in the Mediterranean at present, can be donated to here
  • The UN’s childrens’ fund UNICEF has a donation page here
  • A specific fund named in honour of Aylan Kurdi was set up within 24 hours of the circulation photographs of his body emerging. All proceeds will go to the humanitarian agency Hand in Hand for Syria.
  • Red Cross Europe provides support for asylum seekers. Their page is here.

[Donate] Donate goods from a ‘wish list’

There are a number of wish lists that have been set up online to help ease the supplies issues surrounding the crisis. One list directing goods toward Calais and Greece can be accessed here.

Non-monetary donations

Naturally a lot of goods that aren’t readily available and can’t be bought easily over the internet would be especially helpful given the unique nature of the current crisis:

Support and solidarity

The current crisis is the largest of its kind since World War II. Conflict has displaced millions of people who are taking the ultimate risk of crossing the Mediterranean because it is the only option left open to them. The warm welcome offered by ordinary citizens across Europe in recent days is a profound example of the support and solidarity that these refugees urgently need.

The European Public Services Union (EPSU) is currently researching the position and actions of member unions regarding the ongoing refugee crisis and how budget cuts in services dealing with asylum claims, housing and healthcare are exacerbating the situation, in advance of an emergency Justice and Home affairs Council meeting on 14th September that will discuss an EU response to the crisis.