European Governments under Pressure to Do More for Refugees

Davos, Switzerland, 23 January 2018 (World Economic Forum)*  – The flood of refugees into Europe in recent years has led to the collapse of the continent’s screening and reception process, according to Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.


Unprecedented numbers flee as CAR violence surges | UNHCR

The conflict in Syria alone has driven nearly 10 million of its citizens to seek refuge abroad. Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon host over 90 per cent of these refugees.

Europe urgently needs to play its part – by reinventing how it receives people and how it shares this responsibility among member states.

“Europe has no more a concept of shared solidarity,” said Grandi. The refugee crisis has also revealed Europe’s weakness in the long-term integration into society of new arrivals.


Europe’s system for receiving migrants has collapsed – the continent needs to show greater solidarity in sharing responsibility for refugees and greater energy in integrating them into society

Grandi’s message was echoed by Louise Mushikiwabo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Rwanda, who called for greater political engagement. “It is easy for us politicians to hide behind the word ‘humanitarian’,” said Mushikiwabo, “but refugees are a consequence of bad politics and we need to tackle that.”

She called on Europeans to be patient, take time and deal seriously with the issue. Europe’s citizens need to understand why these people are coming to their countries and what can be done to deal with the challenges.

Putting refugees at the centre of any response means taking seriously their needs for education and work – and their potential role as future taxpayers

The UNHCR’s forthcoming Global Compact on Refugees will emphasize the critical roles to be played by the private sector, civil society, academia and development organizations – as well as governments and humanitarian players – in addressing the crisis.

Funding for refugees and host communities remains a thorny issue, admitted Grandi. The system needs more than just short-term humanitarian resources. “We need to look at longer-term funding, investment-type funding, which creates lasting advantages,” he said.

This is largely the responsibility of bilateral development donors and multilaterals such as the World Bank, he added.


Connectivity is one key concern for refugees. “The first thing a refugee asks for on arriving at a camp is not water or food, but the password for the Wi-Fi,” said Kaan Terzioğlu, Chief Executive Officer, Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri, Turkey.

A smartphone is not a luxury; it is a basic humanitarian need, he said. It is often the only thing to connect refugees with the people they left behind. Useful smartphone apps for refugees help them how to claim asylum, find a house or job, learn a new language or find health insurance.

However, said Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Senior Vice-President; Chief Sustainability and Public Affairs Officer, Ericsson, Sweden, “Digitization is more than an app.”

The key role for the private sector is to help refugees, host communities, and humanitarian and development organizations transform themselves through digital technologies. The Sustainable Development Goals provide another opportunity for corporates to engage.

Longer-term funding – beyond humanitarian resources – is vital for tackling the refugee crisis

Underpinning these transformations, we need a shift in mindsets, argued Sara Pantuliano, Managing Director, Overseas Development Institute, United Kingdom. This means putting people at the centre of choosing what they want to buy, and for what they want to use our aid.

“Education and jobs are the two things you hear from refugees,” said Pantuliano – “but what do we give them? Food – but it’s not the priority for them.”

Many governments don’t permit refugees to work in the formal economy. Terzioğlu, for one, is mystified: “We try really hard not to lose one customer. I see potential [among refugees] as good taxpayers five to 10 years out. They’d be great building blocks of the future. Why don’t governments see this?”


The World Economic Forum’s 48th Annual Meeting is taking place on 23-26 January 2018 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. More than 3,000 leaders from around the world are gathering in a collaborative effort to shape the global, regional and industry agendas, with a commitment to improve the state of the world.


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. Watch live webcasts of sessions and get more information about the meeting at


2018 Human Wrongs Watch


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