Salzburg Declaration on the Refugee Crisis

A large number of refugees walk north along the Danish E 45 Motorway near Kliplev, Denmark, September 9, 2015. The refugees are trying to make it to Sweden on foot. (Benjamin Nolte/dpa/Corbis)

On September 9, at the conclusion of the IPI Salzburg Forum on “The Rule of Law and the Laws of War,” a declaration was issued that called for action on the refugee crisis. Moved and concerned by the massive human tragedy of millions of refugees fleeing from war and persecution, participants at the IPI seminar spontaneously decided to draft a declaration with concrete steps to help save refugees.

Read the declaration

The President of IPI, Terje Rød-Larsen, described the current response of the international community as “haphazard, disjointed and reactive.” He therefore urged his colleagues to put forward proposals for more effective multilateral cooperation to save lives and help those in need.

The message of the declaration is that a major rescue operation should be mobilized to pick up the refugees close to where they are fleeing from (particularly Syria), and bring them to safety in a dignified and orderly way rather than having to cope with unsafe journeys, unscrupulous smugglers and traffickers, and unsympathetic governments.

The drafters of the declaration, including former foreign ministers Lloyd Axworthy of Canada, Gareth Evans of Australia and Amr Moussa of Egypt, said that “how the international community resolves this crisis is a test of the seriousness of our commitment to our common humanity, and will hopefully provide a model for our collective response to acute displacement problems in other parts of the world.”

The declaration calls for the creation of humane, properly resourced and equipped reception centers in key hubs in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe where refugees are congregating. It suggests that in order to share the responsibility of resettling the refugees around the world, criteria should be drawn up for indicative quotas against which Member States throughout the world should be asked to accept those seeking protection. To accelerate the processing of asylum claims, it urges to treat all nationals fleeing violence from Syria as eligible for temporary protection status. To pick the refugees up and bring them to safety, the declaration seeks support from commercial ship and airlines. To finance the global rescue initiative, the declaration calls for the creation a Solidarity Fund, and the convening by the UN Secretary-General of a Pledging Conference.

Rita Hauser, Chair of the Board of IPI, and one of the driving forces behind the declaration said: “While Europe is looking for solutions, this is not only a European problem. This is a global problem which needs a rapid global response.” Citing past precedents like the resettlement of the Vietnamese “boat people,” Hauser said “this crisis is solvable, it just needs better leadership, political will, and a coordinated plan of action.”

As the declaration says, “this global rescue initiative would save lives, significantly reduce the market for smugglers and traffickers, facilitate the effective processing of protection claims, and more equitably share the responsibility a humanitarian tragedy that affects us all.”