Politics

5 Proposed Solutions to the Refugee Crisis

Years of war, poverty, and oppression have devastated countries in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, driving millions to flee to Europe in hopes of securing asylum. These are the refugees we hear about and whose plight has been collectively termed an international crisis. The image of a small child, drowned and washed up on a Turkish beach, has left a profound impression on the Western conscience, and as the world attempts to make sense of the situation, our minds turn once again to solutions.

More than 19 million people have fled their home countries, with an estimated 42,500 more fleeing every day. The majority of these refugees have embarked on precarious journeys to Europe, loading up on ramshackle boats and rubber floatation devices and crossing the Mediterranean to Greece and its Aegean islands, Italy, and other countries along the border. This has proven exceptionally risky; UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, reported that at least 2,500 people have died trying to make the passage in the rough Mediterranean waters this summer alone.

Confronted with a growing humanitarian crisis, world leaders, human rights organizations, and billionaires alike have accepted the challenge and proposed solutions. Whether or not they work is yet to be determined, of course, but as we continue to seek answers for the millions of Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi, and Somali refugees fleeing conflict in their home countries, these proposals are certainly worth international consideration going forward.

Here are five proposed solutions to the refugee crisis.

1. Follow Germany's lead.

Germany's vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, recently announced that the country could and would take as many as 500,000 refugees each year, "for several years," the Guardian reported. This year, Germany expects to receive more than 800,000 asylum seekers—four times more than in 2014. The country appears to have assumed a proactive role in supporting international efforts to solve the refugee crisis.

"I believe we could surely deal with something in the order of half a million for several years," Gabriel said on public television. "I have no doubt about that, maybe more."

2. Buy an island for the refugee population.

An Egyptian billionaire, Naguib Sawiris, put forward the idea of purchasing a Mediterranean island where refugees could take temporary shelter as countries and human rights organizations develop long-term solutions. He suggested that he would consider approaching Greek or Italian government officials with his proposal.

"You have dozens of islands which are deserted and could accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees...[as] temporary shelters to house the people, then you start employing the people to build housing, schools, universities, hospitals," he told AFP News.

3. Have religious institutions accept asylum seekers.

On Sunday, Pope Francis called on Europe's Catholics to do what they can to alleviate the humanitarian crisis by having every parish, monastery, and religious community take on one refugee family. Tens of thousands would be helped if they accepted the pope's challenge, according to the Washington Post.

"Facing the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees—fleeing death by war and famine, and journeying towards the hope of life—the Gospel calls, asking of us to be close to the smallest and forsaken," he said. "To give them a concrete hope and not just to tell them, 'Have courage, be patient!'"

4. Establish and protect "safe havens" in the Middle East.

Though the concept of "safe havens" in countries such as Syria has been criticized by some who consider the prospect unsustainable and dangerous, others believe that they would reduce the number of deaths that result from attempts to flee by boat across the Mediterranean. And for those who are opposed to accepting asylum seekers in Europe, this has been seen as a way to confront the refugee crisis without having to make accommodations abroad.

"We need a massive international diplomatic effort to set up safe enclaves," the UK's former minister for international development told BBC Radio 4 recently. "We're talking about an international body, hopefully composed of troops from Jordan, Egypt and other countries in the region willing to shoulder the burden but it would need to have massive capacity to defend itself and those in the enclave, were they to be attacked, but it would not attack anyone, it would defend the people in the enclave."

5. Give more international aid.

This is perhaps the most commonly cited "solution" to the refugee crisis, with the UN's aid chief, Stephen O'Brien, encouraging wealthy countries to increase the amount of aid they send to the war-ravaged region. He suggested that this is a way to avert the influx of asylum seekers entering Europe, by providing the resources they need to rebuild homes, businesses, and feed their families.

"While donors give more generously every year, the gap between funds needed and funds provided continues to widen," O'Brien said in a UNHCR press release. "This raises questions about our ability to continue to meet affected people's needs, especially in protracted situations where 80 percent of our work now takes place, and where we are asked to stay longer and to do more."