Washington, D.C. — The Center for American Progress has long highlighted the need to address the dire humanitarian costs of conflict in the Middle East. A year ago, CAP called alleviating the humanitarian crisis one of three core strategic goals. Adequate attention, key policy changes, and needed resources have not been devoted to this crisis by the international community. In light of the growing flow of refugees, CAP issued the following statements:
With the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe growing rapidly, American Progress President Neera Tanden said:
The human catastrophe driving desperate men, women, and children to seek refuge in Europe is a global problem that requires global action. The world is now churning out 40,000 new refugees and internally displaced people daily. If we don’t begin to address the root causes that are driving people from their homes, we will be living with the fallout for a generation. The United States should also offer asylum to additional refugees from this crisis.
John Norris, Director of CAP’s Sustainable Security program, added:
Not only do far more countries need to open their doors to refugees, we need to begin immediately planning to ensure that these refugees and their surrounding communities have economic opportunities and an ability to earn a livelihood. These aren’t people desperate for a handout; these are people desperate for a chance.
The refugees now flooding into the Middle East and Europe are a direct result of the international failure to resolve conflicts and foster sustainable security in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and other nations. Refugees are a symptom of these crises, and the worst refugee problem in a generation will not be resolved unless there is a far more concerted effort to achieve peace in conflict torn societies. CAP makes the following recommendations, which should be immediately considered:
- U.N. member states should hold an emergency special session to address these conflicts and the current global refugee emergency when they meet this September in New York.
- The European Union should adopt procedures that will make it easier for refugees to seek asylum, including by expanding access to visas for those from conflict-affected countries. Asylum-seekers should be able to apply from their home regions rather than waiting until they have risked their lives and the lives of their children by trekking across thousands of miles of land and sea, often at the mercy of criminal human smuggling gangs. Likewise, the European Union should improve the provision of humanitarian assistance, public safety, and basic social services for refugees.
- The EU’s Treaty of Dublin should be changed to better reflect the proportions and urgency of the present crisis. Current provisions direct that asylum seekers should be processed only in the first point of entry to the European Union, placing an undue burden on states such as Italy and Greece that are on the frontlines of this crisis.
- There must be an open and transparent process to select the incoming chief of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, to ensure that this individual possesses the requisite competence to deal with the enormity of the current refugee crisis.
- The UNHCR, in conjunction with global business and philanthropic leaders, should hold an immediate session to explore how best to integrate new refugee populations into Europe and other nations in the Middle East and to ensure that these individuals and their surrounding communities receive sufficient livelihood support to avoid isolation and ghettoization.
- Member states and concerned individuals should close UNHCR’s considerable funding gap. Only 37 percent of the $4.5 billion that the United Nations needs to provide for refugees in 2015 has been contributed by donors. The G20 and G7 should put these issues prominently on their agenda for upcoming meetings.
- Finally, the United States must recognize some responsibility for the plight of innocent families pushed out of their homes by ongoing conflict in the region and increase its efforts to help with this humanitarian crisis, including sharing more of the burden of accepting refugees.
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.481.7141.