Civil Society's Crucial Role to Solve Refugee Crisis


The annual meeting of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles took place in Tallinn, Estonia, from Oct. 16-18. (Photo: Annela Samuel)

The European refugee situation is settling down.

There are no more masses arriving, many procedures are in place, and quarrels over the quota are given to the European Court of Justice to solve.

Is the crisis over?

This was one of the questions asked at the annual meeting of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) that took place in Tallinn, Estonia, from Oct. 16-18.

More than 150 participants - refugee advocates, nongovernmental organizations, Estonian government and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) - from more than 40 countries, discussed the key issues related to the refugee situation in today's Europe.

The European Baptist Federation (EBF) was represented by Helle Liht, the assistant general secretary and a member of the EBF refugee working group.

So, is the refugee crisis over?

Catherine Woollard, ECRE's secretary general, said in her opening address that in a political sense the refugee crisis is declining but in terms of refugees' rights and integration into society, the crisis is still there.

The political focus is on creating and funding negative measures (for example, border control, deportations and so on), while a crucial need exists to find, fund and implement positive measures for protection and integration of refugees.

Pascale Moreau, director of UNHCR's European bureau, pointed out that one of the most important tasks for Europe is to mobilize civil society to alleviate this crisis.

She emphasized that it is the people who can change the negative narrative of migration and make the positive narrative sound louder. Integration of refugees is, after all, beneficial for all, not just for the refugees.

Many churches of EBF member unions and conventions are, indeed, actively involved in helping refugees to integrate into their communities and stand for their rights where needed. This is their call from God and their vision for God's kingdom.

In order to share these experiences and learn from each other, the EBF, together with Interact Sweden, will hold a conference in April 2018 on the role of local churches integrating refugees into local communities.

More information about the EBF conference is available here.

Helle Liht is the assistant general secretary at the European Baptist Federation and chair of the Baptist World Alliance's Commission on Creation Care. A version of this news article first appeared on the EBF news page. It is used with permission. You can follow her on Twitter @HelleTweet.

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Tags: Baptists, European Baptist Federation, Helle Liht, Immigration, Refugees


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