LONDON – As the Mediterranean migrant crisis has escalated over the past year, the spotlight has been on national governments’ policies, some of which have been generous, others callous. But non-state actors – individuals, nongovernmental organizations, and private companies – have been just as important in responding to the crisis, often literally coming to the rescue of refugees and migrants.
International cooperation among governments is necessary to help displaced people, but it is not always sufficient. The private sector provides critical support for migrants as they travel through legal pathways and integrate into new communities. So, to bolster this support, the Private Sector Forum on Migration and Refugees will be holding a Concordia Summit in New York this month to devise new, practical solutions to migration-related challenges.
Some of the world’s most vulnerable people are bearing the brunt of the international community’s indecisive response to the migrant crisis. Worldwide, only one-tenth of the people who need resettlement have been offered a place to call home, and half of all migrants are hosted in only ten countries. With public concerns about immigration fueling xenophobia and nationalism in the West, some countries are closing their borders.
But that is not the whole story. The migration crisis has also unleashed a wave of sympathy and humanitarian activism in some of the locales most directly affected by new arrivals. On the Greek island of Lesbos last year, more than 50,000 individual volunteers and NGOs such as Sea of Solidarity and the Hellenic Rescue Team, which this week won UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award, assisted exhausted migrants arriving from their traumatic sea crossing. The privately funded Migrant Offshore Aid Station, founded by a young Italian-American couple in Malta, has saved thousands of lives since it was launched in 2014.