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Refugees in Europe

European values of hope and dignity have been unparalleled for decades. We have a proud tradition of coming together to care for one another - as seen after the great displacement of the Second World War, when Europeans opened their hearts and their homes to refugees. Now is the time to stand for those values of hope and dignity. Now is the time to stand with refugees.


For decades European countries have offered a welcome to people fleeing terrible circumstances of war and persecution. The choice we face is what kind of future we build together - where everyone can work, integrate and contribute to society.  

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Why are refugees settling in Europe?

A family apply for asylum in Germany, at a refugee camp in northern Greece

The civil war in Syria has been one of the largest drivers of the global refugee crisis, which has left 65 million people displaced worldwide. With neighbouring countries no longer able to absorb uprooted Syrians after more than six years of fighting, almost one million Syrian refugees have fled to Europe to seek safety and better lives. The ongoing violence in IraqAfghanistan and other countries in crisis has also pushed desperate people to seek safety and a new start in Europe. The ongoing violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries in crisis like Nigeria, Guinea and Ivory Coast has also pushed desperate people to seek safety and a new start in Europe. 

In Greece, around 50,000 refugees are waiting for asylum, to be reunited with their families or to be allowed to move elsewhere in Europe. Thousands of refugees are stuck in the Balkans as borders close, their lives on hold. 

How have European governments responded?

European Union policies in place to prevent people from entering Europe risk whittling away humanitarian rights and standards for the world’s most vulnerable. 

Two years since the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal, refugees stuck on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios, Kos, Samos and Leros are still being forced to live in overcrowded and dangerous conditions as they wait months for their cases to be heard. 

Vulnerable people risking their lives are taking perilous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea. Under EU-sanctioned policies many are being pulled back to Libya. A country in turmoil, across Libya 1.3 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. 

Safe and legal ways for refugees to reach Europe are limited.  

Meanwhile across the European continent, governments are grappling with the challenge of how to successfully integrate the over 1.3 million people who have been given asylum in the past two years. 

Now is the time for Europe to show global leadership by adopting policies that uphold its founding values.

What is the IRC doing to help?

Silva, age 7, gets water at a refugee camp in northern Greece

In July 2015, the IRC was the first international aid organisation to assist the thousands of refugees who were arriving each day on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Today, IRC aid workers continue to work in Greece and along the Balkan route to support the most vulnerable refugees, including children travelling alone and at risk of smuggling or trafficking.  

Through Refugee.Info - a website, Facebook page and app – the IRC empowers refugees on the move by providing them with real-time, reliable information in Arabic and Farsi about their rights, local laws and support services. The platform helps refugees in Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria regain the power to make choices that protect themselves and their families.  

In Germany, the IRC provides expert guidance on refugee integration, including the most impactful ways in which to support refugees into education and the workforce. Our ‘healing classrooms’ approach create safe learning environments for vulnerable refugees dealing with the trauma of being forced to flee their homes, the journey to Europe and the issues they face in rebuilding their lives. 

The IRC provides support to 15 European countries, offering expert guidance on refugee integration by drawing on our 80+ years of experience assisting refugees and people seeking asylum, which includes more than four decades of work in refugee resettlement and integration in the United States.   

Across Europe, we work to create policy change and to ensure that governments and institutions are responding effectively to refugee crises.  

What can I do to help refugees?

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At a glance


people are currently stranded in Greece.

The IRC ensures that they have the services they need to live safely and with dignity.

Source: UNHCR

people are estimated to have died or gone missing on the Central Mediterranean sea in 2017.

The IRC is advocating for change.

Source: UNHCR

unaccompanied and separated children are in need of protection and safe shelter in Greece.

IRC aid workers continue to work in Greece to support the most vulnerable refugees.

Source: EKKA

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