The global migrant-refugee crisis has been exacerbated by restrictive European Union (EU) policies that have made migration an increasingly perilous and dangerous endeavor, according to a Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) report.

The report, “Obstacle Course to Europe: A Policy-made Humanitarian Crisis at EU Borders,” was released last week and is based on interviews with MSF staff and medical data.

It analyzes EU policies with regards to migration and asylum in the context of the global refugee crisis and shares stories of migrants and refugees seeking to escape violence and poverty.

This is the “largest global displacement crisis since World War II,” MSF notes, with more than 1 million persons fleeing their home countries – 49 percent from Syria.

A majority (85 percent) have journeyed from “refugee-producing countries” – these include Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Syria – and most have made their way to neighboring nations.

“While the official discourse in Europe has tended to present the continent as overwhelmed by an ever-growing wave of migrants and refugees, their number accounts for less than 0.02 percent of Europe’s total population,” the report states.

“In 2014, Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon alone hosted one third of the world’s refugees. In Lebanon, a country with a population of 5.8 million, refugees represent almost 30 percent of the population.”

A contributing factor to the scope of the crisis has been “the European Union’s deterrence and anti-immigration policies – developed over the last 15 years and further strengthened in 2015,” which have restricted the number of safe, legal avenues to migrate.

This has contributed to the growth of human trafficking and smuggling operations, a contributing factor in the rising migrant death tolls, MSF asserts.

In addition, “the traditional state and UN-sponsored aid system has also struggled to adequately respond to people’s needs.”

Key problems include:

  1. Inadequate reception conditions for asylum seekers, including limited access to information about registration procedures and lack of sufficient health care and other essential services at reception centers.
  2. A “domino effect” due to “rash decisions to close borders and a lack of coordination between different European states.”

Such practices “created incredible stress and dangerous conditions for thousands of people on the move” as migrant-refugees become “stranded in no man’s lands, with little to no humanitarian assistance, and ultimately, forced onto more dangerous routes or into the hands of smugglers,” the report said.

To fill the gap resulting from inadequate government responses, MSF noted that “civil society and volunteer groups, better able to work around administrative, institutional and political blockages, have emerged as key to providing refugees and migrants with essential services throughout their journey.” has highlighted regularly the work of Baptist organizations and volunteers working on the front lines to aid migrants and refugees.

Stories include the work of Austrian Baptist Aid, Baylor Scott & White Health’s Faith in Action Initiatives, Croatian Baptist Aid, German Baptist Union and Lebanese Society for Educational and Societal Development.

“[2015] will be remembered as the year in which Europe catastrophically failed in its responsibility to respond to the urgent needs of assistance and protection of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people,” MSF asserts.

The full report is available here.

Editor’s note: A free resource sheet on immigration (including resources on refugees) is available through the storefront here.

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