According to the United Nations, the current migration crisis is the worst since World War II.
An entire generation of children and young people are being exposed to violence and war in Syria since 2011, and are held back from their access to basic rights.
Refugees are not solely fleeing from Syria. More than a dozen other conflicts have broken out in the past five years in different regions in the world, including Iraq, South Sudan and Ukraine .
The European Institutions report that just in 2015 and 2016, more than 2.5 million people applied for asylum in the EU, while more than 2030 people are thought to have lost their lives in the Mediterranean in the first six months of 2017 .
According with Save the Children, 2016 was the deadliest year on record for those crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Right now, children are fleeing bullets, poverty, persecution and the growing impact of climate change, only to drown in European waters. Every person inside a Refugee Camp faces a feeling of oppression, if not uselessness altogether, having to wait days on end with nothing to do but listen to the news and hope a decision has been taken about their faith.
Caught up in the middle of this negative situation are the children and young people who have fled the conflict areas together with their families- “Many (children and young people) know nothing more than conflict, violence, forced displacement, and their current deplorable conditions which offer little hope for their futures.”, Thorning-Schmidt- CEO Save the Children International. According to UNHCR statistics, they make up an astonishing 38% of the total number of refugees reaching Europe, with an average of 25 to 33% per Refugee Camp. Many were separated from their parents or travelling alone.
The Specific Situation of Minor Refugees
While young refugees have special needs because of their age, they might also be separated from their parents or attachment figure, as is the case of unaccompanied minor refugees. This very insecure and disruptive situation can harm young people’s cultural, intellectual, physical, psychological and social development. Children and youth are not only affected by what happens to them, but also by what they are deprived of, for example access to education or leisure activities.
Once granted asylum, young people and children are still facing difficulties to really integrate into their hosting community. They are facing both language and cultural barriers. They also need to be equipped with the right skills and knowledge.
The Role of Youth Organisations
Young people in Europe were among the first to address the refugee crisis. Youth and civil society organizations supported and welcomed refugees arriving in their towns, even when their countries were closing the borders.
When we talk about youth related with this crisis, we can clearly see two categories of them.
Young migrants who saw their world collapse in a night and decided to seek safety and a new beginning in Europe, and young Europeans who want to see a better future and find their place in today’s hard reality. Both of them want to believe in Europe’s successful future and they are willing to get their hands dirty to make a change in their lives and in their communities.
Scouts and Guides, and Youth Organisations in general are strongly committed to contribute to refugee support activities in their local communities, playing an active role in the current migrant and refugee situation in Europe. Only in Greece, during the last two and a half years, with more than 10.000 hours of voluntary work around the country by more than 1.000 scouts.
This crisis was and is an opportunity for youth all around the region to shape the future of Europe that they want to live in, through their actions.
We could think that addressing issues like global poverty, injustice and inequality were all too big and complicated for us to solve. Nevertheless, through seeing first-hand the impact our work had on the local community, volunteers learned that while an individual might not be able to solve these big issues alone, we can collectively have an impact that can create a ripple effect. The same is true for our response to the refugee crisis in Europe.
Youth Organisations are important contributors to enhancing an inclusive society for all culturally and socially diverse young people, empowering them to become active citizens. When it comes to participation, Youth Organisations play a crucial role and share common responsibilities.
A lot is still to do to ensure dignified reception and durable solutions for Asylum-seekers in Europe. Further building the capacities of Youth Organisations in Europe to integrate young refugees in their daily activities will really allow ensuring a long-term integration by Europeans citizens. The project “Time to be welcome” will therefore aim to equip Youth Organisations with adapted tools and capacities to ensure a long-term integration into their daily activities.