Train of hope Frankfurt franz ferdinand photography

On September 12, we are calling on people, civil society and governments to show solidarity and provide help and security to people in distress.

In recent days we have seen a lot of refugees in Europe and the media in a frenzy about the “migrant crisis”. While ordinary people are taking the lead to provide support, such as donations, solidarity marches and transport, the European press continues to brim over with half-baked xenophobic nonsense. “They are economic migrants, not refugees”, say so many who clearly have not been paying attention to the news for the past twenty years. “Why don’t their neighboring countries do more to help them?” ask people who have obviously never once noticed that Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan and many other ‘neighbors’ are struggling to support the massive numbers of displaced people. An estimated 9 million people have fled their homes because of the war in Syria. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 3 million have fled to Syria’s immediate neighbours Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. 6.5 million are internally displaced within Syria.

By the end of 2015 an estimated half a million people will likely have fled to Europe as a result of conflict, persecution and hardship. More than 350,000 have already arrived — a significant increase from earlier years, as a result of the political instability, oppression, and violent conflicts.

To prevent further increases in the number of refugees and to address the current refugee crisis FOEI calls for the following actions:

End the conflict in Syria
The UN and governments around the world need to take bolder action on stopping the civil war in Syria, as a first step towards reconstruction of the country. In general, we need to promote and enhance peace building in our societies to prevent wars in the future.

End resource extraction and over use
Resource extraction and use is a significant contributing factor to many of the violent conflicts that cause people to make perilous journeys to faraway lands. We have to move our economies towards more efficient resource use, in some cases even towards phasing out their use (for example in the case of fossil fuels). Taking steps to prevent the kind of scorched earth resource extraction that has devastated swathes of Nigeria would help. Helping people to preserve their access to water is essential. Set up a meaningful international system to stop people from being thrown off their land or deprived of their livelihoods.

Work urgently towards climate justice
To prevent increased numbers of refugees in the future, governments need to act urgently to prevent climate chaos. Climate change could see crops fail, diseases spreading, supply routes disrupted, extreme weather events worsening, and, as always, it will be the poor and the marginalized who suffer the worst consequences. Climate change stands to worsen potentially volatile situations and will likely lead to conflicts and wars in the future, as it would increase resources scarcity.

Stop persecution
We need societies that protect freedom to protest, around the world and an end to persecution. Civil society and governments need to actively criticize regressive laws. We need to support efforts to create an international treaty to prevent businesses from abusing human rights and to hold them accountable when they do.

Trade fair
We need to increase efforts to eradicate poverty, but we need to look at the root causes of it. For example, lopsided trade deals often see northern countries and transnational corporations sucking up huge amounts of wealth from poorer countries and leaving little more than environmental devastation in their wake. Today we see yet more corporate-first-people-last trade deals such as the TPP and TTIP in development despite massive public rejection.

Support refugees by showing solidarity and assistance

People have left their homes fleeing for their lives and now they need support. They need the same things as the rest of us, to earn a living, to support their families, to learn to laugh and to live life in dignity. Instead of building fences, we need to build homes and build bridges.

Jagoda Munic
Chairperson Friends of the Earth International

What can you do?

  • Join a march on 12 September. Friends of the Earth members will be joining marches across Europe
  • Volunteer and join local grassroots efforts
  • Sign national petitions and put pressure on your government to welcome refugees
  • Donate – food, clothes, supplies, money. Consider pledging to open your home to refugees
  • Increase pressure on rich country governments to raise their ambition on climate pledges to minimise climate impacts, resource conflict and mass displacement in the future
Image: Train of Hope, Frankfurt, Germany. Volunteers are ready to welcome refugees from Syria in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. By Franz Ferdinand photography, licensed under CC