Refugees International's 38th Anniversary Dinner took place at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on April 25, 2017 in Washington, DC. The White Helmets (Syria Civil Defense) were awarded RI's highest humanitarian award, the McCall-Pierpaoli Award. The Congressional Leadership Award was presented to Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and the Richard C. Holbrooke Award was presented to Hassan Shire.
Standing on a soccer field on an island in the Mediterranean, it’s hard to understand how it came to this: how did this Italian island just north of Africa somehow become the frontline of the Mediterranean migration crisis?
As the EU marks its 60th anniversary, EU member states now face the largest displacement crisis since World War II. Instead of responding with humanity and effectiveness, they have turned their backs on and closed their borders to people urgently seeking protection. Well over a million people have crossed the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2015, fleeing wars, violence, persecution, and human rights abuses in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Eritrea.
The sixth anniversary of the Syria conflict is upon us. In those six years, five million Syrians have become refugees in neighboring countries. Inside Syria, six and a half million people are displaced from home, and 13.5 million need humanitarian aid to survive even as humanitarian needs continue to grow. The situation for 2017 does not look promising. A hopeful development of the past half decade of the Syria conflict has been the growth of dozens—even hundreds—of local Syrian groups and networks delivering aid inside Syria and their ability to get aid across the border from Turkey into Syria. These groups have become an essential element of assisting people inside Syria, especially in places the United Nations and INGOs cannot get to because of security concerns.
On March 18, the EU and Turkey will mark the one -year anniversary of their joint statement , which sought to stem the flows of asylum-seekers and migrants crossing from Turkey’s shores to the Greek islands. But as this anniversary approaches, Refugee International believes there little cause to celebrate and much more cause for concern. While EU leaders have presented the policy as a success, pointing to the significant decrease in the number of arrivals on the Greek islands since March 2016, the policy has also left thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers stranded in Greece in shocking conditions and has eroded the right to seek asylum in Europe.