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Why crisis

Why is there a humanitarian crisis in Europe?

Migration isn't a new phenomenon - it has existed all around the world since the dawn of civilisation. The so-called "European refugee crisis" started making headlines in 2015, when more than one million displaced people from countries including Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Eritrea and more arrived in Europe. There are many reasons why people seek asylum abroad - from escaping war and persecution to simply wanting to provide a better future for their families. Their journeys to reach Europe are dangerous and often deadly. According to IOM reports, more than 23,000 people have gone missing in the Mediterranean alone since 2014. The EU's legal system quickly reached its capacity after the arrivals of 2015, with entry-point countries (like Greece, Turkey and Italy) bearing the brunt of the work. This is partly because of the Dublin Regulation. This EU law, adopted in 2003, states that the first country an asylum seeker arrives in is responsible for processing their claims. The law was implemented to deter displaced people from "asylum shopping", but has created many problems for entry-point member states. Their reception facilities continue to be overstretched, so asylum seekers are often forced to live in overcrowded camps with unsuitable living conditions and little to no indication of how long they would remain there. Other displaced people who weren't registered under the Dublin Regulation continue to move through the EU.


Why are grassroots organisations needed?

Grassroots humanitarian organisations provide essential services to asylum seekers and refugees, which the EU and local governments are unable or unwilling to offer. These services include: - Food and non-food item distribution including winter clothing and hygiene products - Child and adult education Integration and community building activities - Medical, legal and psychosocial support Despite their crucial contributions, grassroots organisations remain terribly underfunded. Most depend on donations and project-based grants to keep their operations running. As funds remain scarce, they are deeply reliant on volunteers such as yourself.

Why grassroots

Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.
What's the difference?

Our partners and volunteers support displaced people including asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. All these terms relate to people who are on the move, forced out of their home countries because it was too dangerous or difficult to stay and crossed international borders. 

Despite this overarching definition, there are legal differences between the three definitions.


Someone who had to flee their country of origin because of a well-founded fear of persecution, conflict, violence or other human rights violations. Refugees have a right to international protection because of the great risks to their life and safety that their home government can’t or won’t protect them from.

What are the conflicts leading people to become refugees and migrants?

People are leaving their home countries and searching for a better life in Europe for many reasons. It is impossible to write an extensive list, but here are some questions that can guide your own research:


  • What displaced populations seek support in [the location(s) you might go]?

  • What conflict is happening in their home countries?

  • Why might they have become refugees?

  • What challenges do refugees face on their journey?

  • What is meant by “well-founded fear of persecution” for refugees?

  • What factors might it make difficult for people from these countries to cross borders?

Marieke Odekerken - Verhip voor Lesbos 16.jpg

What is the Asylum process and how does it work?

The asylum process includes several stages for the person in need of protection: (1) arrival, (2) expressing the wish to apply for international protection, (3) identification, (4) registration of the asylum application, (5) personal interview, (6) assessment and decision, (7) and, in certain cases, appeal. All stages combined, the time this process can take ranges from several weeks to several months and even years depending on factors such as the applicant's case, the country processing the asylum claim, etc. 


The Dublin Regulation. In the European Union, the Dublin Regulation defines which country is responsible for the processing of an asylum application and determining refugee status. It establishes both that this responsibility falls onto the country the application was lodged in and that the application needs to be lodged in the country of first entrance to the European Union. For example, if an asylum-seeker arrives on the Greek island of Lesvos, Greece is in charge of the individual's registration, fingerprints collection and further examination. Occasionally, applications may be transferred to other EU member states, however this depends on a number of conditions (such as  family considerations - if close relatives are under international protection in another country, recent possession of a visa or residence permit of a member state, etc). 


Asylum practices vary from country to country and depend on a number of factors.  You can read about national reports on the asylum procedures for the majority of European states here.  


Recent changes. In September 2020, the European Commission launched its New Pact on Asylum and Migration. The Pact includes the proposal for a new regulation that is supposed to replace  the Dublin one, while keeping many of the same rules for the allocation of responsibilities between Member states. If interested, you can read more about the Dublin Regulation implementation in 2020 here. 


Waiting for asylum. During the asylum procedure, applicants stay in countries where they applied for asylum and wait for a decision on their cases. Living facilities and conditions during that stay vary greatly from country to country. Many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East require asylum seekers to be relocated to refugee camps while their status is determined; in Europe, some countries use reception and identification centres, while others host asylum seekers in community centres. In most cases, however, these settings prohibit asylum seekers from getting a job or impose long waiting periods for the right to access the labour market. Only in some countries can asylum seekers waiting for their case to be processed live among the local population if their financial resources allow for it.


News channels

Are You Syrious

A news digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and people on the move, but also for journalists, decision makers and other parties.

The New Humanitarian

TNH report from the heart of conflicts and disasters to inform prevention and response.

Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera provide a voice for the voiceless in some of the world’s most unreported places.


The UNHCR "Refugee Brief" shares news from all over the world on the latest development affecting refugees.

IOM Flow Monitoring

This site monitors the flow of refugees and migrants to Europe.

Border Violence Monitoring Network

“An independent Network of NGOs and associations mainly based in the Balkan regions and in Greece, who monitors human rights violations at the external borders of the European Union and advocates to stop the violence exerted against people on the move.”


“A news and information site for migrants to counter misinformation at every point of their journey: in their country of origin, along the route, or in the places where they hope to start a new life. InfoMigrants is available in five languages: French, Arabic, English, Dari and Pashto.”

Migratory birds

“The overall aim of the newspaper, as also that of the “Radio Dandelion” podcasts, is to empower the social integration of adolescent and young refugees and fight xenophobia. All articles and podcasts are solely produced by teenage and young migrants, refugees and Greeks.”

Eko Magazine

“We’re a creative platform, published in English, Arabic and Farsi, raising the voices of migrants, volunteers & activists.”

Documentaries & Series

A cult escapee, refugee, office worker, and bureaucrat find their lives intertwined in an immigration detention centre.

TV Mini Series 2020.  Available on Netflix.

This series documents the last 12 months in the shoes of people escaping war and poverty as they try to cross Europe. 

Documentary TV Series 2016 . Available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV.

Filmmaker Ai Weiwei examines the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact across the globe in 23 countries.

Documentary  2017.  Available on Netflix, Amazon Prime.

With unique personal archive from civilians and soldiers from both sides of the conflict, this series takes viewers closer to the realities of war and life under Isis than ever been. 

Documentary TV Mini Series 2020. Available on Amazon Prime.

An intimate and epic journey into the female experience of war. The story of Waad al-Kateab's life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while conflict rises around her.

Documentary  2019.  Available on Netflix.

Book Recommendations 

Books about Exile

A list of books about exile for adults collated by Refugee Week

Reading the Refugee Experience

Range of reading that raises awareness of the experience of refugees, including thought-provoking true stories, original fiction and inspirational books for children.

Pride and Prejudice: The Best Books on the Refugee Experience

A curated collection from popular culture offering new perspectives on migration and displacement.

Immigration and Refugee Reading List

A selection of books that explore the various dimensions of immigration; probing and revealing the xeno-racism of migration services, celebrating acts of resistance by migrant groups, and telling the stories of re-homed newcomers and their reception.


"This podcast will take you on a journey across the world...without you having to go anywhere. You'll be hearing from the people leaving their countries and everything behind them, to the volunteers working alongside them. The humans behind the statistics and the headlines."

"Integrate That is a podcast made by refugees. Reporting our stories by ourselves the way we feel suitable is very important for me."

"Persecution. Violence. War… Forced To Flee tells the extraordinary stories of people who lived through some of the most tumultuous events of the past 70 years."

"The New Humanitarian brings you an inside look at the conflicts and natural disasters that leave millions of people in need each year, and the policies and people who respond to them. Join TNH's journalists in the aid policy hub of Geneva and in global hotspots to unpack the stories that are disrupting and shaping lives around the world."

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