Refugees speak out at Lisbon Forum, amid calls to improve coordination of humanitarian aid

MinaJaf Lisbon Forum 2016[28-11-2016] -  Refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria explained their experiences at this year’s Lisbon Forum, as calls were made to improve coordination to assist them as humanitarian crises continue.

Adam, a 26-year-old Syrian student in Portugal, explained how programmes like the Global Platform for Syrian Students should be expanded. Founded three years ago by former Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, with the support of the Council of Europe and other organizations, the programme has so far enabled Adam and some 150 other young Syrians to resume university studies under its emergency scholarship programs.

Just when the Council of Europe launches its 2016 campaign to end violence against women, Kurdish refugee Mina Jaf – who founded the NGO Women Refugee Route – told participants about the risks women face from male violence “again and again,” throughout their journeys away from war and conflict. She called on stakeholders to set up “gender sensitive [refugee] policies” so that girls and women feel more protected.

Meanwhile, president of the Greek NGO METAdrasi, Lora Pappa, this year’s Lisbon Forum chair, decried wanting coordination of efforts to help refugees – stressing that the refugee crisis is more “a management crisis than a humanitarian one.” Participants from both sides of the Mediterranean meet at the Lisbon Forum to build better bridges between countries of origin, transit and destination of migrants and displaced people.

Representatives of municipalities – including Patras, Greece; Tangiers, Morocco and Stavanger, Sweden – are assessing how to improve local approaches to the crisis. The exchange of experience and good practice among Council of Europe member states and Southern and Eastern Mediterranean partner countries should lead to actions to promote integration and to support access to rights for displaced people.

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