5 September 2015



The International Federation of Social Workers calls for immediate and substantial action from governments to resolve the humanitarian crisis now affecting most of Europe.

The inhumanity shown to people escaping war and poverty is a direct result of political failures in many global, regional and national political bodies, which lack the will to do what is needed. This lack of will is an abdication of responsibility and the main obstacle to alleviating the trauma of the people trying to find safety and security. These political bodies have proven they can, when they have the will, find large sums of money to bail out banks and other financial institutions – but they seem reluctant to help people in need.

As the global body of social workers, who have the skills and expertise to contribute to sustained social development, we know that social workers are now at the forefront of delivering services to the millions of people caught up in this crisis. Social work NGOs are employing trained social workers, from their affected communities, who have the skills to work effectively with very traumatised and distressed people. They also act as the catalyst in organising volunteers to welcome and assist the integration of refugees into new areas.

Refugees are not all helpless as often portrayed. They have significant resources, skills, strengths, health and education. These human assets should be the foundation for rebuilding societies, not denigrated or ignored by the ‘humanitarian aid’ mentality. Governments and agencies should uphold human dignity, ensure that people are treated with dignity and respect in refugees camps, strengthen community and social interdependence and, above all, involve people in all decision-making over their futures. The political response must also look beyond the immediate crisis. It must focus on creating a worldwide environment enabling sustained social development, as envisaged in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals, due to be approved by the United Nations later this month. Establishing social capital is a prerequisite for peaceful and sustainable societies.

Social workers are trained and skilled in helping people through dramatic change in their lives. IFSW is confident that the skills and expertise of social workers are available to all agencies and governments wanting to work towards sustainable solutions to this crisis.

The last mass migration of peoples following the Second World War established the role of social workers as a key component, in partnership with others, in rebuilding communities. The adoption of social work principles such as ‘involving all people to have influence over their own lives’, and ‘a respect for dignity and human rights ’ will lead to sustainable solutions that allow people to find peace and security.

IFSW calls on governments, the European Union, other regional bodies and international agencies to show the courage of immediate action, demonstrate humanity and respect for people and involve the people in decision-making about their futures. IFSW calls for these bodies to establish integration programmes in each affected country, and address the international dynamics that are the root cause for this refugee crisis.