Charity: EU should gird for more refugees
Though the EU initiated a controversial refugee swap with Turkey in spring, displaced people continue to head for Europe, the Catholic aid organization Caritas warned in its annual press conference in Berlin. Tens of thousands of refugees are waiting in disastrous conditions in Balkan countries, said Peter Neher (pictured), the president of Caritas. (According to the UNHCR, more than 50,000 refugees are currently residing in the Balkans.) Many of them live in emergency dwellings; they often avoid official refugee shelters for fear of deportation. Neher said many hoped to find a gap that would allow them to slip onward, to northern EU countries. He called on the European Union to provide better financial assistance to Balkan nations and Greece, an EU member, which have become overwhelmed by the amount of work and supplies needed.
Caritas, founded in 1897, has generally been critical of refugee agreements. It does not support the idea that the European Union can simply deport people to countries like Libya by offering such nations money to boost their border security. "We cannot allow authoritarian governments or representatives of unstable or nearly collapsed states to do our dirty work," Neher said. He also criticized the deportation of Afghan refugees, saying the security situation in their home country has continually worsened as the Taliban gains back territory.
Oliver Müller, the head of Caritas International, warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Syria. Aid organizations such as his do not have access to some 600,000 people who have been displaced within Syria, Müller told DW: "Nobody knows their situation." He said various belligerents in Syria's multifront civil war had denied aid groups such as Caritas access to the internally displaced after expressing doubts about the neutrality of aid organizations.
Refugees along Syria's southern border with Jordan find themselves in a particularly vulnerable situation. An estimated 100,000 people are waiting to be allowed to travel to Jordan, where the government has refused to let them, fearing that fighters for the "Islamic State" might attempt to blend in with their numbers. The United Nations has supplied food, but the situation looks likely to deteriorate in the coming weeks. A political solution is desperately needed. And Caritas has called on Jordan to let these refugees in.
Since Syria's civil war began as a series of peaceful protests against the government in 2011, Caritas has supported the country's people and its neighbors through aid projects. By its own account, the organization has reached more than 1 million people and 55 million euros ($61 million) has gone to aiding Syrians.
Like many aid organizations in Germany, Caritas has benefited from an increase in donations and public funding as refugees began to arrive in large numbers in the past year. In 2015, revenues rose 24 percent, to 85 million euros.