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D2uble Penalty: Refugees and freedom of religion or belief

On Wednesday 31st May, the European Evangelical Alliance organised, as part of The Refugee Campaign, a hearing in the European Parliament: “D2uble Penalty: Refugees and freedom of religion or belief”. The event was co-hosted by Messrs Branislav Škripek & Lars Adaktusson, Members of the European Parliament.
50 participants attended the hearing session, included some Members of the European Parliament and their office. This was the occasion to raise awareness on the double penalty refugees from religious minorities experience when arriving in Europe: harassment and persecution in camps after fleeing violence in their home country. And also to discuss policy challenges and recommendations.
Below are some highlights from the event, and proposals of advocacy actions which both individuals and communities can undertake.

Highlights from the event

“A pan-European problem”

In addition to the reports introduced by Open Doors and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, several other research papers were briefly presented. These resources could serve us well while drafting further policy recommendations.

From the various interventions it became clear that religion or belief-based intolerance and discrimination of refugees is a pan-European problem. That’s why it is important to share materials and ideas that could be applied in all EU Member States. Some great suggestions were made that will need further attention.

It is good to realise that refugees bring their own culture and that, as a result, reception centres and refugee camps are microcosms of their own. This should be taken into account by officials responsible for managing camps and accommodation centres.

Introducing refugees to their host culture should start as soon as possible. The YouTube animation film and related posters shared by Stichting Gave were interesting examples of such efforts.

Although from a manageability perspective, the focus of camp authorities will be on the majority, the religious minorities in the camp need empowerment eg by a supportive environment from local faith communities.

“There’s a lot to be done in terms of education”

The ‘Gave’ Foundation and Howard Stern from the International Christian Consulate both underlined the need to strengthen training of officials, security staff and accommodation managers on human rights and religious freedom. This also applies to lawyers supporting asylum seekers, especially lawyers dealing with applications from converts.

Training should not be limited to physical get-togethers. There are great opportunities for online training as well, which was underlined extensively in the afternoon workshop. The ‘Gave’ Foundation (NL) and The Open University (UK) shared initial ideas which could lay the foundation for a high-impact educational initiatives, some of which already exist, which we could all benefit from.

A critical need appeared for education programmes for refugees and host communities on cultural awareness and European values of non-discrimination, religious tolerance and democracy.

Church communities have shown that they can be ressources of moral support for asylum seekers. Training in asylum issues and procedures as well as on reporting potential problems in camps to the right authority would bolster both individual support and reporting on behalf of asylum seekers.

Other suggestions and highlights:

  • Create a list of MPs/MEPs with refugee accommodation facilities in their constituency

  • Revise UNHCR vulnerability criteria to reflect the situation of individuals under pressure for their religion or belief

  • Tackle the issue of translators’ and interpreters’ integrity regarding religion, ethnicity and language

  • Work with accommodation authorities to better identify and protect converts amongst refugees

  • Document and counter the rise of violence during Ramadan, and more generally prevent the implementation of shari’a law within refugee camps

  • Work together on reforming the asylum claim system with guidelines, best practices and common materials: for example guidelines for conversion assessment in asylum claims, provision of training materials (more information will follow)

  • The necessity to link organisations on the ground with advocacy organisations and academia

  • Conduct a thorough European-wide research on cases of harassment/persecution of religious minorities in camps

  • Invest in interfaith dialogue

  • Explore opportunities to get the Fundamental Rights Agency involved in addressing violations of freedom of conscience and religion of refugees.

A fuller report from the event will follow in the coming weeks, highlighting policy recommendations and their implementation. If you would like to share some more resources, notes or ideas, please send them to the organisers:

The EEA also wishes to act as a catalyst for seeking and implementing practical and policy responses to the multiple challenges to freedom of religion or belief for the refugees. We will therefore also seek to connect participants and interested parties to that effect.

Things you can do

PARTICIPATE in our Thunderclap campaign on EU migration policy: http://thndr.me/iV1uJD

(IMPORTANT: in your custom message, replace #EUCouncil #eucopresident by @EUCouncil @eucopresident for Twitter and by @eucouncil @europeancouncilpresident for Facebook to mention the EU Council and its president)

More information on advocacy actions you can do with your organisation or church HERE: www.eearefugees.org/eu-ministers-stop-the-eucompacts

DOWNLOAD the Refugee Sunday Church Pack and organise a special service in your church on June 18th or 25th: www.eearefugees.org/world-refugee-sunday

To know more about The Refugee Campaign, visit our website that contains lots of resources: www.eearefugees.org

Documents and links from the event

Download CSW’s report on Refugees and Religious Freedom

Download Open Doors International’s report on Christian Refugees in Germany

Relating to converts in the context of their asylum claim − guidance by the ‘Gave’ Foundation

The ‘Gave’ Foundation worked with the Dutch Refugee Agency to develop an animation video for asylum seekers which, among others, informs them about freedom or religion or belief in the Netherlands. You can find the video on YouTube, here.

Also attached:

EU Ministers : STOP the #EUCompacts

2017-11-09T15:06:47+00:00 Tags: , , , |

UPDATE: On the occasion of the World Refugee Day on June 20th, the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) wants to remind our politicians and leaders of their responsibility to protect, welcome and relocate refugees and asylum seekers within the European Union. Ahead of the European Council on June 22nd and 23rd, the EEA joined its voice to 18 other NGOs and associations to oppose the current discourse on migrations and propose alternatives to the Partnership Framework Agreements with third countries for efficient migration management.

Find the public statement HERE: Towards a migration policy that works
Very discreetly and to our governments’ request, EU Member States and other countries are seeking to work with the European Union on establishing Partnership Framework Agreements, often called “Compacts.” We believe there is a fundamental danger with the ‘reductionist’ narrative, which says that we should seek to send back as many people as possible and at all costs, even if that may mean a disregard for human rights.

As the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) protection of displaced people policy chief Volker Türk stated recently, restrictive policies do not ultimately prevent people from crossing borders.

The worst of this is that the countries prioritised for these agreements which our government will sign, are places where human rights violations, including religious freedom, are widespread.

On June 19th, EU Foreign Affairs Ministers will gather in Luxembourg for a Foreign Affairs Council to discuss external policies and migrations, and we believe more of these Compacts agreements will be signed and planned on this occasion.

Help us make our governments aware ! Share the message on social media and participate to our advocacy actions:

Visit our page for the Refugee Sunday: www.eearefugees.org/world-refugee-sunday

On this particular topic of religious freedom and refugees, the EEA organised an event in the European Parliament on May 31st. We discussed policy recommendations that would help the EU to strengthen its policy on refugees and their religious freedom. You can read the article herewww.eearefugees.org/d2uble-penalty-refugees-and-freedom-of-religion-or-belief

A new resource helping Churches to meet the emotional needs of refugees


Many refugees have been in survival mode for so long they have forgotten how to grieve. Some feel traumatised by their memories of the past, and others are worn down through the complicated procedures on which their hopes for a new start rest. The challenges of gaining legal status, finding housing, securing employment and learning language are important to work through in the process of integration, but perhaps the most essential factor for the long term success in building a new life is emotional wellbeing.

This is where Life Transitions Refugee aims to help. Our Reflective Journey gives refugees the opportunity and the tools to start to commemorate the past, to accept the present, and to look forward to the future with hope.

We train and resource churches, community groups and charities to host the Reflective Journey. Drawing on biblical stories, the journey takes participants through four interactive stations helping them mark their arrival, and preparing them for the challenges of building a new life. Through the process participants gain an understanding of the impact of trauma, normalizing some of the symptoms they may be experiencing. They are given a safe space to start to grieve, and their emotional resilience is built up.

“When we were introduced to Life Transitions we felt like we finally had an effective tool in our hands to help. As a pastor and missionary among refugees I highly recommend Life Transitions Refugee for churches engaged with displaced people

(Reinhard Leistner – Head of Refugee work for BFP / Assemblies of God Churches in Germany)

The Reflective Journey is currently available in 6 languages and has been run by ministries supporting refugees in Germany, Belgium, Greece and the UK. There is also an adapted version for children and victims of human trafficking.

To find out more visit www.ltrefugee.org

Document to download: LTarticleforchurches

Update from Itzinya


There were expectations in the air as people mingled with coffee and cake. A fresh blend of well established Swedish business people, family and friends from Syria, representatives from different governmental functions, even a representative from the Swedish Parliament and media were filling the room.

We are proud to present a group of 9 entrepreneurs who will pitch their business ideas today” said Hakan Sandberg, the founder of the Itzinya concept, as the program started. After Hakan introduced Itzinya, Khaldoun Sarraj from Syria continued to give a picture of what it mean to be a new arrival in Sweden. “As new arrivals we came eager to rebuild our lives but with only the initial idea in our minds, and then we worked together at Itzinya to come closer to our final “product”. What you will see today is the result of hard work. We have an unusual situation. We struggle with language, to understand the Swedish tax system, we need to build relations both in business and private and in many ways we feel like we are starting all over again like children”. Khaldoun who has an MBA from Dubai and have been responsible at Mercedes after sales department in Dubai, with 200 people reporting to him, is himself a clear example of this difficult transition. He is now full time staff with Itzinya and will lead the work in Norrkoping moving forward.

Then one after the other pitched their ideas to the audience. It was a mix of business ideas that had come to a variety of different stages. Many in the audience were surprised when they heard the experience the entrepreneurs had behind them from both studies and previous jobs that laid the basis for the ideas they were now working hard to realise. There was one invention for TV studios, already proven and sold in the Arab world but that the entrepreneur now wanted to start manufacturing in Sweden for global export. Another is planning to start a business coordinating the ground handling and flight permissions for aviation companies, something that he has previous experience of. If he succeeds, he will need to employ people to work 3 shifts due to the nature of this kind of business. Yet another is starting a new global perfume brand targeting a customer segment that no one previously have thought of and he has extensive experience in this industry. A couple of restaurants and one export company for medical equipment were also pitched. The export company had already shipped its first batch to his first customer. One could easily read the pride those entrepreneurs felt as they pitched and their sense of hope for the future.

“It is amazing to see the change this group has gone through during those 4 months” said Hakan. When they met the first time and introduced themselves they were all strangers to one another. They explained how they didn’t have any contact with Swedish people, no knowledge of the language and how they felt totally outside society. This group was all in the category that had not yet got their residence permits and therefore was not eligible for language study. A period that currently is more than 12 months from their arrival. Now after 4 months they are like a big family that trust, help and encourage one another. They got to know many Swedish people both in business and privately. They all have a personal coach and by now most of them have received their permissions and started language studies. They are excited over the opportunity to add value to their new society. And all these are just “side effects” of the startup process, Hakan stated this reality with a smile!

He ended saying; “We have tested this with one group of new comers and know that it works. We are now ready to expand both to other cities in Sweden and to other cities in Europe that has the same need of job creation and integration”.

Itzinya is looking to start multiplying the concept where it is needed. They would be happy to host a Skype call with interested people as a way for them to get introduced to the concept and be able to validate whether they should move on with serious plans. You can contact them at [email protected]

Find the first article about this project here.

The EEA signed the March Appeal to EU leaders with 160+ organisations


Ahead of the European Council (9-10 March), the EEA joined more than 160 Civil Society Organisations in asking the European Union Member States to respect Human Rights for refugees coming to Europe and people on the move.

This month of March 2017 is particularly important as regards of the EU’s management of the refugee crisis: on Thursday and Friday this week the Head of State and Government will approve new decisions for migration policies, on the 15th Dublin returns to Greece will start and March 18th will see the first anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal permitting readmissions of refugees to Turkey.

We want the EU institutions and leaders to stand on the values it was founded on. That is the only way to counter national populism.

“On the brink of the European Union’s 60th anniversary we ask you to show solidarity, respect for humanity and dignity, and responsibility. We ask you to be truly inspiring leaders for the future. Our commitment to the European Union’s core values cannot falter. Only a Europe that really stands by its values can be a strong and credible leader in a world shaken by increasing populism and so-called alternative facts.”

Find the document here: FINAL March Appeal ENGLISH

Full text

8 March 2017


Dear Heads of State and Government,


We are civil society organisations, which are supported, collectively, by hundreds of thousands of people across Europe, working with those less fortunate to alleviate poverty, provide essential aid and defend people’s rights.


With xenophobic populism on the rise across Europe and the globe, this is an appeal for leadership to uphold the rights and values that have been founding principles of the European Union for 60 years. Together, we need to prevent legitimate concerns about migration management from being hijacked and used to derail the European project.


On a daily basis, we witness widespread solidarity with people who are fleeing brutal wars, persecution, human rights violations, instability, and extreme poverty. Throughout Europe and the world, we see people welcome refugees and migrants into their communities, open up their homes and donate money, materials and time to help. Only this week, many of them travelled to Brussels to call on you to uphold your commitments to relocate asylum seekers from Greece and “Bring Them Here”. We also hear people expressing their concerns about the future, asking their governments to show leadership and respond to the arrival of large numbers of people.


We take pride in the European commitment to international law and human rights and we look to you to foster and promote this commitment at home and abroad. Yet when increasing numbers of people in need arrived in the summer of 2015, Europe failed to come together and respond with humanity, dignity, and solidarity.  To this day, European nations are unwilling to respond in in line with their obligations under international and European law, defaulting to responses that keep people far away and out of sight.


We hear you repeating your commitment to European values – respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights. But we expect to see them in your actions, too. Too many leaders have been preoccupied with stopping people from reaching Europe, at the risk of reducing access to protection for those who need it the most.


You have the responsibility to manage migration in a fair manner that addresses the legitimate concerns of citizens. It must be principled and based on facts, not on populist rhetoric. Strength doesn’t mean turning away those most in need. Strength is about showing a way forward that upholds values.


Further, if the EU and its member states want to remain credible international actors, they cannot expect countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon to host millions of refugees, while simultaneously pushing migrants and refugees back at EU borders, stranding thousands in inhumane living conditions on the Greek islands, or pushing them back into an uncontrolled conflict zone like Libya. Your decisions have life and death consequences, and if you continue to lower standards, countries around the globe will follow suit.


Instead of countering the rise of xenophobic populists, Europe’s response has too often been to copy their recipes. But an approach based on deterrence and border closures cannot override an effective long-term policy. We expect statesmanship that stands up for humanity and dignity and that addresses people’s fears, instead of fuelling them. We expect sustainable, long-term migration policies that guarantee respect for people’s rights rather than pushing them into danger. These include expanding safe and regular pathways to Europe, such as humanitarian and other visas, increasing resettlement spaces and improving access to family reunification schemes, as well as improving worker mobility across skill levels. Other global concerns such as conflict and instability, poverty, inequality and climate change must remain at the top of the European agenda.


You and your governments must assess the impact of your policies on the human rights and living conditions of women, men and children on the move, as well as Europe’s long standing commitment to uphold these rights and improve the lives of people everywhere.


On the brink of the European Union’s 60th anniversary we ask you to show solidarity, respect for humanity and dignity, and responsibility. We ask you to be truly inspiring leaders for the future. Our commitment to the European Union’s core values cannot falter. Only a Europe that really stands by its values can be a strong and credible leader in a world shaken by increasing populism and so-called alternative facts.


European history is full of people who were forced to flee their homes due to war and persecution.  The work European nations have done to develop and protect the rights of people over the last 70 years cannot be lost. Only a Europe that defends the rights of everyone, without exception, is a Europe we can be proud of.




1A Proposito di Altri Mondi Onlus
4ACT Alliance EU
5Action Against Hunger
6ActionAid Italy
7ADP Amici dei Popoli
8African Media Association Malta
9Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme
10AI.BI. Amici dei Bambini
12Albanian Human Rights Group (AHRG)
13AMERA International
14Amnesty International
15Anna Lindh National Network in Finland
16AOI – Associazione Organizzazioni Italiane cooperazione e solidarietà internazionale
20ASGI – Associazione Studi Giuridici Immigrazione
21Asociacion en Prevencion y Asistencia de la Violencia   APAV
22Asociación pro derechos humanos de España (APDHE)
23ASPEm Onlus
24Associació Salut i Família
25Associaton for Integration and Migration (SIMI)
26Associazione K_Alma
27ASTI – Association de Soutien aux Travailleurs Immigrés
28Austrian Red Cross
29CARE International
30CARITAS – Luxembourg
31Caritas Europa
32CEFA Onlus
35Centar za integraciju mladih
36Centro per la Formazione alla Solidarietà Internazionale
37Cercle de Coopération
42CIRÉ (coordination et initiatives pour réfugiés et étrangers)
43CISV Onlus
44Civic Committee for Human Rights from Croatia (CCHR)
46CODE – Coordination des ONG pour les droits de l’enfant
48Comitato Collaborazione Medica CCM
49Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)
50Concord Italia
51CONCORD Sweden
52Consejo de la Juventud de España
53Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations in the Czech Republic
54Consorzio Ong Piemontesi COP
55Coordinadora de ONG para el Desarrollo – España
56Coordinamento Italiano NGO Internazionali
58COSPE Onlus
59CrEA Onlus
60CVM Comunità Volontari per il Mondo
61Danish Refugee Council
62Detention Action
63Diaconia – Center of Relief and Development
64DNK – German National Committee for International Youth Work
66Dorcas Aid International
67Dutch Council for Refugees
68Dutch League for Human Rights (DLHR)
71EuroMed Rights
72European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH),
73European Evangelical Alliance
74European Non-Governmental Sports Organisation ENGSO Youth
75European Youth Forum
76Federación de Asociaciones para la Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos España
77FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)
78Finnish League for Human Rights (FLHR)
79Finnish Lutheran Overseas Mission
80Finnish Refugee Council
82FOCSIV – Federazione Organismi Cristiani Servizio Internazionale Volontario
83Fondazione Fontana
84Fundación Atabal
85Generation 2.0 for Rights ,Equality and Diversity
87Habitat for Humanity International, Europe, Middle East and Africa
88Handicap International
89Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR)
90Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights – Poland
91Human Rights Watch
92ICMC Europe
93International Aid Services
94International Association For Refugees
95International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims
96International Rescue Committee
97International Young Naturefriends – IYNF
100Islamic Relief UK
102JRS Belgium
103KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism
105La Strada International
106Lafede.cat- Federació catalana
107Latin American Wome’s Rights Service (LAWRS) – UK
108Latvian Human Rights Committee (LHRC)
109Le Monde des Possibles ASBL
111LIDU – Lega italiana dei Diritti dell’Uomo
112Ligue des Droits de l’homme en Belgique (LDH)
113Ligue suisse des droits de l’homme (LSDH)
114Link2007 – Cooperazione in rete
116Macedonian Young Lawyers Association
118Marche solidali – coordinamento organizzazioni marchigiane di cooperazione e solidarietà internazionale
119Médecins du Monde
120Menedek – Hungarian Association for Migrants
121Migrant Rights Centre Ireland
122Migrant Voice – UK
123Migrants’ Rights Network
124Missing Children Europe
125Movimento Shalom onlus
127Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre
128Norwegian Centre against Racism
129One Third Sweden
130ONG para el Desarrollo
131Osservatorio AIDS
134Pax for Peace
136Platform Kinderen op de vlucht – Plate-forme Mineurs en exil
137Polish Migration Forum
138Polish Society of Anti-Discrimination Law (PSAL)
141ProgettoMondo Mlal
142Rainbow for Africa
143Red Acoge
144Save the Children
145Secours Islamique France
146SKOP – The National Platform of Maltese Development NGOs
147SONIA per un Mondo Nuovo e Giusto
149stichting LOS (National Support Organisation for the Undocumented)
150Stichting Vluchteling
151Swedish Refugee Advice Centre
152Terra Nuova
153Terre des Hommes
154The Finnish NGDO Platform to the EU Kehys
155The Migrants’ Rights Network
158United Protestant Church in Belgium
161with the support of CONCORD Europe
162World Vision


Let’s Bring Them Here – March 6 2017


Drive with us to remind European leaders and our national governments of their promise

In September 2015, all European Member States made a promise to relocate by September 2017 a fair share of 63.302 refugees stuck in Greece to their own countries to start their asylum process in that third country. Three quarters in, only 15% of them have actually been relocated, hence most of them were forced to survive yet another winter in very harsh circumstances.

The nature of this so-called relocation deal is urgent and the purpose is to spread the responsibility of this refugee crisis over all the Member States so to lighten the heavy load on one of our fellow Member States, in this case being Greece.

In reality however, we see that none of the European Member States is keeping their end of the deal, some have not even relocated anyone yet and it seems they are not planning on doing so whatsoever. In the mean time, Greece, while having to deal with its own crisis, has been left having to cope with the overflow of refugees without other Member States taking on their full share. Other Member States are creatively calculating and setting forth lower numbers of people they are supposed to relocate. It is clear the relocation deal will not be very successful and one can only speculate on when the next wave of refugees is coming and how many they will be.

Our team has visited Athens and Thessaloniki just last week to get more of an understanding of the situation right now. It seems most of the chaos has been dealt with, (pre-)registration is coming to a closure, people have been placed in more humane conditions. At the moment most of them are waiting for a phone call, which will tell them what country they will be send to and when. And this waiting is deadly, after all they have been through already, they have been stuck for months and months not knowing what is about to happen. All decisions about their future are in other people’s hands, and so they wait.

For now it seems that the relocation deal is stuck at the level of our national governments that are not speedily taking in people. That is why we as European citizens want to remind our own governments as well as the European leaders of their promise by driving to Brussels on the 6th of March to offer them our cars and services as chauffeurs to quicken this relocation process. This has been done already on November 30th in The Hague, now we want to people from all over Europe. So, will you join us?

More info and registration on our website: www.bringthemhere.eu.

If driving to Brussels is not a possibility, you can show your support on line by posting a selfie with your license plate: www.bringthemhere.eu/all. Read our stories from our trip, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and pass on the information as much as you want.

Let’s Bring Them Here #Brussels from Suzan Doodeman on Vimeo.

An update from Church Response For Refugees


Church Response For Refugees is a movement with the aim of inspiring and equipping churches and Christian groups across the UK to actively welcome and support refugees. We were launched in autumn 2015 by a coalition of church and political leaders who were concerned about the plight of refugees arriving in the UK and sought to find solutions for the UK churches to effectively harness our voices, influence and resources to act together for refugees. Our work is currently focussed on three areas: i) Encouraging and training churches to ‘adopt’ a refugee family through the UK Government’s Community Sponsorship Scheme  ii) Referring churches interested in helping refugees through other means to Christian organisations that offer practical solutions for refugees, like hosting English lessons and delivering a welcome box of gifts to refugees, and iii) Resourcing Christians to engage their communities with a positive narrative about refugees.

We recently had the privilege of attending the Refugee Highway Partnership Roundtable conference in Budapest. We really treasured the opportunities to meet fellow like-minded Christians leaders working in continental contexts. We are hopeful that some of the relationships started at the conference will flourish into international partnership that will enable UK and continental churches to share lessons and resources with each others. In particular, churches in our movement seem particularly excited about getting on board with RHP’s World Refugee Sunday initiative. Our prayer is for more UK churches to consider practical ways to welcome refugees through reflection and refugee-focussed teaching on World Refugee Sunday.

Our next major national event is Engaging Young Refugees: An equipping day for youth workers on Wednesday, 23rd of March. As the name suggests, it is a day of training for those already working with young people to meet the particular needs of young refugees and unaccompanied minors, such as trauma care, mental health issues, resettlement, education and employment. Please visit http://engagingyoungrefugees.eventbrite.co.uk to find out more. We would really appreciate your prayerful support for us to plan and deliver this conference well, so that youth workers across the UK would go away with a vision and a mission to engage young refugees. 

Please visit our website http://www.forrefugees.uklike us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (@ForRefugees) for all our latest developments, news and events.

In Christ,
Church Response For Refugees Team
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