«Protect people, not only borders!» Representatives of Central European refugee-assisting organizations at the panel at Vienna January, 15. Photo: ECRE

For a Europe of human rights!

15 Central European refugee organizations from 9 countries raise their voices and urge for a return to humanity and solidarity today, January 15, 2016.

Central European Refugee-assisting Organizations Criticize European Response to the Refugee Crisis

Appeal: Overcome Division – Organize Joint Refugee Reception

Vienna, 15 January 2016

We, representatives of Central European refugee-assisting organizations, members of ECRE, are deeply concerned about the inadequate response of Europe, as a responsible region of wealthy nations, in dealing with the global refugee crisis. In 2015 we saw fences instead of humanity, chaos instead of reasonable policies, and political egoism instead of solidarity and cooperation. We are convinced that Europe’s failure to receive refugees in a humane and dignified way and in a manner which shows solidarity questions the idea of European integration and betrays the fundamental values of Europe.

We are appalled that European governments continue not to offer enough safe and legal ways for protection-seekers to reach EU territory. As a consequence, in 2015 more than a million refugees had to make the life-threatening passage over sea, resulting in almost 3700 men, women and children dying in the Central Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea. Without immediate action, the situation could worsen in 2016. We therefore call on Europe to implement safe and legal channels to protection: resettlement, humanitarian admission programmes, broader family reunification, visa liberalization and the cessation of  push-backs.

Refugee-supporting organizations from Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland call on the European Union and European states to overcome their  fatal division concerning asylum policies. The governments should, without delay, establish a system that offers, even at first EU entry points, fast registration and identification as well as immediate humanitarian assistance. Proper identification of vulnerability as well as the respect of already existing ties of refugees in the EU shall be part of the new common system.

Our vision is that the whole of the Central European region must become a welcoming place for refugees where every country will take fair responsibility in receiving and integrating refugees at harmonized  standards. Until this is the case, people in need, regardless of their country of origin, should be allowed safe passage through the Balkan route. Everywhere in Central Europe there is a strong trend towards  racist and populist political movements. Xenophobia is also becoming dangerously mainstream. The terrorist attacks in Paris and violence in Cologne on New Year’s Eve are being exploited to place under  suspicion hundreds of thousands of innocent refugees. Security concerns should be addressed without jeopardizing human rights and dignity.

We believe that Central European states have to work together to fulfill their legal and humanitarian obligation to preserve the institution of asylum in the region, which itself produced millions of refugees in the last century. We call on our governments to ensure fair and transparent access to national asylum systems, be it at sea, land or airports.

Joint Declaration of Central European members of ECRE – European Council on Refugees and Exiles

Asylkoordination Österreich, Austria
Diakonie Flüchtlingsdienst, Austria
Verein Projekt Integrationshaus Wien, Austria
Magyar Helsinki Bizottság – Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Hungary
Organizace pro pomoc uprchlíkům (OPU) – Organization for Aid to Refugees, Czech
Liga za ľudské práva – The Human Rights League, Slovakia
Pravno-informacijski center nevladnih organizacij (PIC) – Legal centre for the
protection of human rights and environment, Slovenia
Centar za mirovne studije (CMS) – Center for Peace Studies, Croatia
Fundacja Refugee – Refugee Foundation, Poland
Helsińska Fundacja Praw Człowieka – Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland
PRO ASYL, Germany
Diakonie Deutschland, Germany
Schweizerische Flüchtlingshilfe, Switzerland

Download Joint Declaration of Central European members of ECRE – European Council on Refugees and Exiles


The idea of Europe is at stake: borders within Europe are being controlled, fences built and asylum-seekers detained. The Schengen and the Dublin system have collapsed, nationalism and right-wing populism grows.

15 organizations from 9 Central European countries (Croatia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Germany), members of the European Refugee umbrella organization ECRE will report on the current situation for refugees along the Balkan route and present their demands for a Europe of human rights and solidarity. Their motto: «Protect people, not only borders!»

 At the panel:

Karl Kopp, PRO ASYL, board member ECRE (European Council on Refugees and Exiles) and Regional Representative of Central Europe, Germany

Christoph Riedl, Diakonie Refugee Service, Austria

Gábor Gyulai, refugee programme director, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Hungary

Miha Nabergoj, Legal Centre for Protection of Human Rights and Environment (PIC), Slovenia

All other country representatives will be present.

ECRE (European Council on Refugees and Exiles)