”This is a collective fail of the international community” – Billions missing in the international refugee aid

Marco Reinke

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Refugees in a UN's camp - Photo credit: UN Photo/Tim McKulka (Flickr)
Refugees in an UN’s camp – Photo credit: UN Photo/Tim McKulka (Flickr)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was introduced in 1951. The commission should be responsible for the aid in receiving countries. By the end of 2015 at least the German government expects more than 1 million refugees to arrive. But with this Germany will be stretched to its limits of help. Now the appeal for help goes to the international community represented by the United Nations – but billions of Euro are missing there and the funding is still uncertain.

About 42,500 people leave their home every day with the hope of a life without war, oppression, poverty or dictatorships. At the moment 19.5 million people are officially counted as refugees. This huge amount of individuals is an enormous effort for the states in Europe because they are the number one address for refuge.

On paper the aid of the international society should get effective in this emergency situation. With the resolution no. 428 of the general assembly from 1950 the commission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was introduced. At the moment the former Portuguese prime minister António Guterres has this appointment. His assignment is to support states, but conversely the states are obliged with ”… admitting refugees to their territories …” as it is stated in the resolution.


Facts about the UNHCR’s Refugee Agency

  • The commission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was introduced 1950.
  • Today 7,000 employees work in 125 countries for the refugee agency of the UNHCR.
  • The refugee agency should provide emergency aid for receiving countries.
  • According to the UNHCR, 13 million persons are under the responsibility of their refugee agency.

Since 1951 the UNHCR’s refugee agency exists. The organisation is mainly responsible for protecting the human rights of refugees and it is working on international conventions and regulations and their executions by governments. The UNHCR focus on providing aid in crisis states and their neighbour countries, but also in the legal advices for refugees and lobby work in the interests of refugees.

However, the organisation does not provide comprehensive emergency aid, because this is in the responsibility of states. Beyond this responsibility, the UNHCR only get active when states do not or won´t take action.

This year the refugee crisis in Europe began. States like Greece, Italy, Germany and those along the Balkan route were rapidly overwhelmed. “We focus our limited resources to areas adjacent to conflict zones where the majority of the world refugees lives”, a UNHCR representative said. At the begin they would have been confident, that Europe would manage it. “But the humanitarian situation in Greece and along the Balkan route was worrying”, the representative said. Despite limited resources UNHCR, together with other organizations and in cooperation with the authorities, has started to distribute relief items, identify vulnerable cases and provide basic services to new arrivals.

Money is missing

Today many things are only theoretical. Currently a lot of money is missing: At least for the execution of a plan of aid for Syrian refugees, there is a gap of finance of USD 2.5 billion. In contrast the budget for Europe was set to USD 480.5 million this year – this is a four times rise towards 2013. The UNHCR´s total budget does not offset its projects: Barely no operation is financed over 50 percent, the organisation said.

At the funding UNHCR is dependent on voluntary dues of states and donations from private persons. A plan of aid will be developed and the states are encouraged to provide the funding. “Most of the time our operations are underfunded”, the UNHCR representative said.

During her visit in the greatest Jordanian refugee camp “Za’atari“ the designee of the German government for migration, refugees and integration Aydan Özoğuz said that the refugee agency UNHCR is chronically undercapitalized. “You have to say it drastic: Because the international community of states leaves Syria and its neighbour states alone, refugees need to starve and do not receive essential health care and children can not visit the school”, Özoğuz said. “This is a collective fail of the international community.”

SoundCloud – via Iframely

Now the UNHCR gets a new role: A 17-point plan of action to improve the situation along the western Balkan route was adopted last weekend by the European Union in Brussels. It includes numerous measures that comprise more support for UNHCR – mainly for the funding of refugee camps. With these measures an invocation for funding was started. The UNHCR comments on that: “We stand ready to play a more operational role but the respective money must be provided.”

Back to the missing billions for the Syria-aid plan. While the winter is getting closer, it is getting more and more dangerous for refugees. “Refugees in the region do not see any perspective for their future. More money from the international community is necessary to support both the people in need and the host communities.”

The resources were and are still scarce. The time to act is running out and states need to participate – otherwise the winter could mean a tragedy.

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Marco Reinke