Over a million men, women and children have made the hazardous journey to Europe in 2015.
They have made the difficult decision to risk dangerous sea crossings in the pursuit of safety and dignity. Most have been forced to flee their homes to escape war and persecution.
More than 850,000 of these people have crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece in 2015. The vast majority, or 92%, of these arrivals to Greece come from the world’s top ten refugee-producing countries, mainly Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
A humanitarian disaster has been averted thanks to the combined efforts of the countries along the route taken by refugees and migrants, together with UN agencies, humanitarian partners, volunteers and civil society. This joint response provided life-saving aid, vital protection interventions, reception and access to asylum and relocation within Europe.
It is clear this humanitarian emergency will continue, at least into 2016, requiring a consistent response throughout Europe with coordinated government policies and complementary humanitarian interventions.
The determination of refugees and migrants to move onwards poses challenges in providing services and assistance to address the most pressing needs and protection concerns.
The diversity of those on the move, including the young and the old, single men and women as well as families, victims of trafficking and gender based violence, and people from different nationalities and backgrounds means that individuals face different immediate needs based upon their specific vulnerabilities. This poses a further challenge to already overstretched authorities.
For 2016, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration are launching a regional Refugee and Migration Response Plan.
Bringing together 67 humanitarian partners, the regional RMRP is both an appeal and a strategy. It provides the framework for inter-agency cooperation and response to the arrival and movement of refugees and migrants in Europe via the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkans routes.
The Strategic Goals of the RMRP are to:
1. Build and complement Government capacity to respond.
2. Protect and assist refugee and migrant women, girls, boys and men.
3. Provide access to asylum and solutions.
4. Develop a coordinated and efficient response.
Strategic Goal One: To design and implement a response that supports, complements and builds Governments’ existing capacity to ensure effective and safe access to asylum, protection and solutions in relevant countries, as well as manage migration in an orderly and dignified manner while protecting the human rights of all refugees and migrants.
Government personnel have been on the front line helping refugees and migrants. The RMRP will ensure that additional capacity building and support is available to advance these efforts.
Strategic Goal Two: To ensure that refugee and migrant women, girls, boys and men have access to protection and assistance in a participatory manner, with particular attention to specific needs. Protection-centred assistance should be delivered in a manner that respects the principle of non-discrimination; age, gender and diversity; is appropriate to the specific characteristics of the movement; and takes into account the needs of the local communities.
Vulnerable refugees and migrants are in urgent need of protection and assistance, and are increasingly at risk of exploitation.
Strategic Goal Three: To strengthen national and local capacities and protection systems and ensure safe access to longer-term solutions for refugees and migrants who may become stranded, may want to apply for asylum, or may want to return voluntarily to their countries of origin. This includes a robust and protection-centred relocation scheme, as well as reinforced alternative legal pathways to protection, such as family reunification and resettlement.
Strategic Goal Four: To strengthen partnership and coordination within the humanitarian community and with governments, both in setting common goals and in establishing national-level coordination structures and information analysis, that ensure an efficient and coordinated response, including coordinated channels for citizen engagement to support the reception and integration of refugees and migrants.
The humanitarian spirit shown by volunteers and organizations has been outstanding in 2015. In 2016, the RMRP aims to move towards a more structured response.