Refugee emergency in Europe: UNHCR appeals for USD 128 million
This year, over half a million people, the majority of them refugees, have crossed the Mediterranean Sea in search of safety in Europe. European countries have been struggling to deal with this influx of refugees and migrants. To respond to this emergency, UNHCR established a Special Mediterranean Initiative (SMI) and is working closely with the European Union and its member states, as well as with other countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East affected by ongoing conflict and forced displacement of populations.
UNHCR revised today its appeal for funding for the SMI in 2015 and 2016. The total financial requirements from June 2015 to December 2016 now amount to USD 128 million. This Supplementary Appeal includes activities in Europe but also incorporates programmes in countries of asylum or transit in the Middle East and Africa.
UNHCR is planning for up to 700,000 people seeking safety and international protection in Europe in 2015. While it is difficult to estimate at this point, it is possible that there could be even greater numbers of arrivals in 2016. Planning is based for the moment on similar figures to 2015.
In light of the fast-evolving situation in Europe, and the need to move resources from one location to another in response to the flow of people currently seeking international protection in the region, UNHCR is appealing to donors to provide contributions that can be allocated as flexibly as possible.
Over the past months, ever-increasing numbers of people, the majority of whom are fleeing war, violence and persecution, have been risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea and take other dangerous routes in search of safety in Europe. European States bordering the Mediterranean Sea, the Western Balkans and other European countries have been struggling to deal with this influx of refugees and migrants.
UNHCR has established a Special Mediterranean Initiative in order to find solutions to both the causes and effects of these movements, and is working closely with the European Union and its Member States, as well as with other affected States in Europe, in North Africa, West Africa, the East and Horn of Africa and, beyond the framework of this Initiative, with countries in the Middle East affected by ongoing conflict and forced displacement of populations.
This Supplementary Appeal presents a consolidated picture of known or estimated requirements to date for the implementation of UNHCR’s Special Mediterranean Initiative in 2015 and 2016. It includes a summary of requirements identified after the issuance on 8 September 2015 of the Emergency Appeal Initial Response Plan for the Refugee Crisis in Europe (June 2015 – December 2016)1 and now also incorporates activities for implementation in countries of asylum or transit in the Middle East and North Africa in West Africa and in the East and Horn of Africa. It also recognizes that, to be effective, there is a need to implement a range of activities in countries of origin, first asylum, transit and destination, given the complexity.
It should be noted that this appeal presents current needs in Africa and the North Africa subregion for which UNHCR has already planned responses in the affected countries within its programmes for 2015 and 2016. These responses complement UNHCR’s existing efforts within the inter-agency strategic framework for the Syria crisis – the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan 2015-2016 in Response to the Syria Crisis (3RP) for Syrian refugees and the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP) for inside Syria - as well as other relevant inter-agency humanitarian appeals such as the Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya.
By August 2015, the situation in Europe had reached a level of urgency and complexity that warranted an enhancement of UNHCR’s internal management and coordination structure. Consequently, the High Commissioner designated the Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe as Regional Refugee Coordinator (RRC) for this crisis. The RRC is leading UNHCR’s response to this emergency in Europe, ensuring a comprehensive approach that covers all affected countries and is closely coordinated with the European Union response. By late September, almost 500,000 refugees and migrants have arrived on European Mediterranean shores, close to 80 per cent of whom originate from the world’s top 10 refugee-producing countries. Over 50 per cent of the new arrivals are Syrians. In the course of the year, the movements have taken place in three broad phases:
A. Until May, the movements occurred mainly by boat across the Central Mediterranean, principally to Italy and then onwards, mainly to Germany and Sweden.
B. By June and July, while movements through the Central Mediterranean corridor continued at a similar pace as in 2014, there was a significant increase in the number of refugees and migrants transiting through or exiting Turkey by boat to Greece and then moving onwards through the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia to European Union States in Western and Northern Europe. The shift towards the Turkey-Greece crossing was already noticeable towards the end of 2014, with lower numbers of Syrian nationals crossing from Libya.
C. In the most recent phase, since August the overwhelming majority of the new arrivals have been charting their way through various countries in Southern and South-Eastern Europe to seek asylum in Western and Northern Europe.
Lacking legal avenues to reach Europe, refugees have continued to move alongside migrants, using the same routes and means and facing similar risks and dangers. Among the factors behind the increased movement to Europe, refugees have indicated the loss of hope, high costs of living leading to deepening poverty, limited livelihood opportunities, and aid shortfalls. Confronted with increasingly restrictive and unpredictable border control measures in regions of origin and transit, many fall prey to smugglers, with trafficking also being reported along routes in West Africa, the East and Horn of Africa, as well as in transit through Libya. Despite increased naval patrols, especially in the Central Mediterranean corridor, over 2,900 people have been reported dead or missing at sea in 2015, and many more are likely to have perished.
The rapidly changing scenarios in respect of routes and movements towards western and northern European countries have complicated the responses, and efforts to devise an EU-wide approach, which UNHCR is actively supporting, have been slow. The announcements by the European Commission in the week of 21 September are a welcome sign of greater coordination and determination by Governments to tackle this enormous humanitarian challenge, even though broader political and economic issues continue to be debated. Of particular relevance is the approved plan for the relocation of asylum-seekers within Europe.
UNHCR is aware that other organizations may launch their own appeal/response plan to the current situation and is closely coordinating at the field level with other agencies and organizations on the various components of a multi-faceted response.
In light of the fast-evolving situation in Europe, and the need to move resources from one location to another in response to the flow of people currently seeking international protection in the region, UNHCR is appealing to donors to provide contributions that can be allocated as flexibly as possible across the region.
UNHCR is planning for up to 700,000 people seeking safety and international protection in Europe in 2015. The planning figures have thus increased by 350,000 in 2015 in comparison to the initial figures reflected in the emergency appeal. While it is difficult to estimate at this point, it is possible that there could be even greater numbers of arrivals in 2016, however planning is based for the moment on similar figures to 2015.
UNHCR’s activities in sub-Saharan Africa for addressing the protection risks of refugees and migrants moving irregularly will target more than 208,000 people in 2015 and 236,000 people in 2016.
For the purposes of this Appeal, the North Africa subregion has a planning figure of 27,000 people in 2015 and 55,000 people in 2016. This response complements UNHCR’s efforts within the interagency strategic framework for the Syria crisis – the 3RP for Syrian refugees and the SHARP for inside Syria - as well as other relevant inter-agency humanitarian appeals such as the Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya. The vast majority of Syrian refugees are transiting through Turkey, for which corresponding needs are presented in the Europe chapter of this Appeal.