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An appeal to our leaders

The refugee crisis marks the present and future of Europe Thirteen newspapers have united to demand measures to address the tragedy

Soccer fans at a match in Germany hold up a sign in support of refugees.
Soccer fans at a match in Germany hold up a sign in support of refugees.Daniel Bockwoldt (AP)

Europe is facing the worst refugee crisis the world has seen since World War II. With the Syrian conflict now in its fifth year, displaced people are increasingly turning to our continent for protection and help. More and more are dying in their desperate attempts to flee war and persecution. Yet with each passing month we realize that Europe has done too little, too late. We are experiencing a refugee catastrophe, but unwillingness to act has also unveiled a serious political crisis.

Our leaders must show courage and insight if they are to pass this test that our shared European civilization is facing”

Despite our troubled past, Europe must now show that it is a united continent built on the principles of solidarity, equality and liberty.

On September 14, ministers of the EU’s member states will meet in Brussels to negotiate solutions to the crisis. Today, Europe’s leading newspapers are uniting in an appeal by which we urge our leaders to grasp this opportunity and take decisive action to deal with this humanitarian tragedy and prevent further loss of life.

We call on our political leaders to:

  • Establish simple, safe and practical ways for refugees to seek asylum in Europe without risking their lives to come here. This is the best way to eliminate human trafficking and reduce casualties.
  • Show solidarity toward the countries on Europe’s outer borders, where refugees and migrants first arrive, by funding and organizing a safe, dignified and coordinated reception system at Europe’s doorstep with a fast and fair assessment of asylum applications.
  • Suspend the Dublin Regulation, which returns asylum seekers to their first point of entry, so long as large numbers of refugees continue to arrive in Europe.
  • Support a fairer distribution of refugees among EU member states. All European countries must participate in a relocation program far more ambitious than what we have seen so far. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has suggested that Europe should take responsibility for 200,000 refugees. This should be the starting point of the discussions.
  • Increase financial and humanitarian aid to Middle Eastern nations affected by the Syrian conflict. An aid package must cover not only the immediate needs of food, water and medical supplies, but should also commit Europe to helping rebuild local communities in the long term, thereby offering people in the Middle East hope and opportunities for a safer and better future in their own countries.
  • Put increased pressure on other key international players, such as Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States, to do their utmost to bring the parties in the Syrian conflict together for UN-led peace negotiations.

Our leaders must show courage and insight if they are to pass this test that our shared European civilization is facing. We need to act, and we need to act now.

Signatories to this editorial: EL PAÍS, Spain; Die Zeit, Germany; La Repubblica, Italy; Libération, France; The Independent, United Kingdom; i, United Kingdom; Kathimerini, Greece; Népszabadság, Hungary; Denník N, Slovakia; Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland; Aftonbladet, Sweden; Information, Denmark; Morgenbladet, Norway.

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