In 2015, almost a million refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe. They’re escaping war, persecution and poverty in countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Eritrea.
They cross the sea in makeshift dinghies and boats, crammed to bursting with people. Criminals run the operation, not even allowing space for water or extra suitcases. On these boats are men, women, and children. Over 3,500 people have drowned making the attempt.
From the Greek islands, they travel by foot, bus, ferry and train to mainland Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria with their main destination being Germany, Belgium and Sweden. They have left with nothing. They sleep where they can, often in parks and open places.
The European countries this mass exodus of humanity are crossing are often too poor themselves. Aid agencies like Caritas are often the only help available. At every stage of the journey, Caritas national organisations are providing the refugees with warm food, clothing, medical assistance, blankets and a place to shelter from the winter weather.
In Europe many of the Caritas member organisations are small with limited resources, both human and financial. However, the strength of Caritas is its presence everywhere at the grass roots level and as a family of global members we are ready to lend the support needed to our brothers and sisters when emergencies strike.
Working together and with the support of our partners and donors we can mobilize resources quickly. The Caritas Internationalis response entails raising funds to provide first aid, food, winter clothing and shoes for inclement weather. It also includes providing technical support and personnel to assist smaller Caritas organisations struggling with workload and demand.