The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) released its official position statement on the refugee crisis in Europe. Last year the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said the Syrian war had sparked the “biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.” As of last year, the UN reports that nearly half of all Syrians have been forced to abandon their homes since the conflict began in 2011, and around 3 million of these have fled the country. This year refugees from Syria and other countries are arriving in Europe in even greater numbers. Many of these refugees are families who arrive with little more than the clothes on their back. ADRA, through its European offices, is helping to address the refugees’ immediate needs by providing information, food, clothing, shelter and medical care.
As an international humanitarian organization, ADRA has pledged its solidarity with the refugees, urging a compassionate and humane response to the crisis. The full statement is included below:
With thousands of refugees arriving in Europe every day, we recognize that new difficulties are being identified, and tensions are growing. We call for a political solution to the problems facing displaced families—our leaders must act on their responsibilities and make necessary decisions to protect all involved.
At the same time, we appeal to the local population to treat refugees in their communities as they would like to be treated themselves. The strain of this crisis on everyone is clearly evident, but the world is watching vulnerable families being protested against, abused, and exploited.
Making the human rights of refugees a priority, politicians and citizens alike must recognize that the treatment of displaced persons should not be defined by the physical borders they are forced to cross, nor by the religious and cultural identities each carries with them.
With up to 84% of displaced people within this crisis originating in major refugee-producing countries (UNHCR, 2015), this is a refugee crisis, and it must be treated as such. We expect the people of Europe, our governments, and organizations to respect the humanity of each person and to treat them with dignity. We expect humane treatment, hygienic and safe facilities, medical attention as needed, and basic human rights respected.
We ask to see a growing prioritization of providing refugees with not just food and shelter, but also language assistance, mediation and communication with institutions, access to available services, and psychosocial support.
Another critical element for the care of those in the middle of this growing emergency is protection. The physical strain of displacement is nothing compared to the distress that many of these vulnerable people are facing. Government policies and officials must prioritize safety and set the example for treatment.
When refugees are denied their basic rights, they are not the only ones to pay a price. The world’s eyes are on Europe right now, but this is a global crisis, and every decision faces intense scrutiny. Respecting human rights and acting with compassion sends a clear message of strength during this complicated and fragile situation.
ADRA stands united for the protection and rights of refugees. We recognize the humanity within this crisis, as well as the value of each individual involved. We are dedicated to lessening the impact of an overwhelming and unbearable situation on as many men, women, and children as we can. We urge you to do everything in your power to protect the rights and enforce the protection of the refugees within your borders.