accessibility & help

Europe Refugee Crisis Appeal: facts and figures

Refugees arriving in Sicily give their details to Red Cross family tracing teams

Find out how the Red Cross is helping vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers.

What's happening in Europe?

More than one million refugees or migrants (1,015,078) reached Europe by sea in 2015, A further 184,415 migrants in arrived in 2016 (UNHCR, 1 May 2016). So far in 2016, 80 per cent of these come from three nationalities: Syria 43 per cent, Afghanistan 23 per cent, Iraq 14 per cent.

Many people are arriving in Europe as they flee conflict, violence and persecution. They have survived horrific journeys, taking great personal risks to get here. They urgently need food, water and medical care on their journeys to safety. 

The closure of borders along the Balkan route, combined with the EU-Turkey deal have left thousands of migrants stranded in different countries.

The number of vulnerable women and children along on the migrant routes is increasing.

The British Red Cross has a long history of supporting refugees and asylum seekers around the world. You can help to continue our work by donating to our Europe Refugee Crisis Appeal.

The EU-Turkey deal

Conditions for migrants in Greece has profoundly changed as a result of the deal struck between the EU and Turkey on 18 March 2016.

Migrants who arrived on the Greek islands ‘irregularly’ after 20 March 2016 are now held in a situation of detention, with their freedom of movement curtailed.

The thousands who arrived before the agreement but after the Balkan route closure are not subject to the conditions of the deal. They remain in open camps and centres across greater Athens and northern Greece and are living in extremely poor conditions.

We believe the current conditions for migrants in Greece pose grave risks to their health and well-being, including their mental health.

What is the Red Cross doing to support refugees in Europe?

The British Red Cross is part of a global network called the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The Movement is working in most of the countries affected by the global refugee crisis.

This includes countries of origin such as Syria and Iraq. It includes countries that people are travelling to to flee violence and persecution such as Turkey, Greece, Hungary, Italy, and Serbia. And we’re working in other countries where many people are seeking asylum such as Germany, France and the UK.

In the UK, the British Red Cross helps thousands of refugees and asylum seekers every year. You can find our refugee services in 60 UK towns and cities. Our staff and volunteers give support ranging from food and clothing to small amounts of cash for emergency items. We also offer volunteering and learning opportunities.

Elsewhere in Europe, our Red Cross Movement partners are helping people along the routes which are most commonly used by those seeking asylum.


According to UNHCR and the Government of Turkey, since 2012 there have been 2,715,789 registered Syrians in the country (up to 3 March 2016). The five-year crisis in Syria has displaced more than four million people into the neighbouring countries.

The Turkish Red Crescent currently has three community centres in Istanbul – it wants to expand to 16. It offers language courses, psychosocial and financial support.

Over the past 15 months, about one million refugees crossed from Turkey to the Greek islands.


There are 53,063 migrants currently stranded in Greece. 

The situation is particularly dire in northern Greece with around 24,000 people, mostly families, waiting in several camps close to the border. Living conditions in the informal settlement at Idomeni, where 11,603 people are waiting in the hope for the border to reopen, are particularly poor.

The Hellenic Red Cross (Greece’s equivalent to the British Red Cross) is supporting vulnerable people arriving on the Greek islands of Kos, Lesvos, Samos and Chios. They are also helping people in Idomeni at the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Cherso, Nea Kavala, Diavata, Giannitsa.

This includes providing basic supplies such as food parcels and survival kits. These contain everything from toothbrushes and toothpaste to sanitary towels for women and nappies for babies. Staff and volunteers are also providing first aid and health care.

The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Greece means that our resources are extremely stretched. That is why we are appealing to the public to support our work


Italy is one of the primary entry points for migrants entering Europe. 

The main route remains to be southern Italy (especially Sicily) as first entry points from the North Africa coasts. In 2015, according to the UNHCR,153,842 people arrived in Italy by boats mainly from North African countries. In 2016, 25,458 people have arrived in Italy by sea.

Italian Red Cross staff and volunteers are helping migrants who arrive in the main ports of southern Italy. The Red Cross has done this work for many years.

They provide medical assistance, such as helping pregnant women and people who are dehydrated or injured.

They are providing basic necessities such as food and water. They are offering emotional and psychological support to traumatised people.

They are also helping to keep families together and restore family links for anyone who has been separated from their relatives on their journey.

How are you going to spend the money raised by your appeal?

Money raised by our Europe Refugee Crisis Appeal will go towards the Red Cross’s work with refugees, migrants and asylum seekers across Europe and Turkey.

This will include providing humanitarian support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, ranging from food and clothing to casework advice.

It will also cover work by our partner Red Cross and Red Crescent societies elsewhere in Europe and in Turkey. For example, providing food, water and health care along the routes people are taking to flee violence and persecution.

How the money is divided between different Red Cross societies will be determined by where the need is greatest.

The British Red Cross supports each affected country's Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The IFRC is the world's largest humanitarian network, covering 189 countries. The IFRC co-ordinates its members during emergencies.

We are supporting the IFRC's work by donating funds and we have sent ten specialists (or funded their positions) to assist in Greece and across Europe. These staff members will offer their expertise in technical areas including logistics, disaster management, information management and communications.

The British Red Cross has also pledged money from the Europe Refugee Crisis Appeal:

  • more than £3.8 million to IFRC appeal in Greece
  • more than £1.8 million to IFRC appeal in Turkey
  • more than £1.2 to IFRC appeal in Italy
  • more than £280,000  to IFRC appeal in Macedonia
  • more than £800,000 to IFRC appeal in Serbia
  • £233,000 to IFRC appeal in Hungary.

You can see more details more details of the IFRC appeals on its website.

What are you doing in Calais and Grande Synthe?

Together with the French Red Cross we sent emergency aid to refugees, migrants and asylum seekers living in Grande-Synthe camp, northern France in December 2015. This included rain ponchos, scarves, gloves and hats to fight off the winter cold as well as toiletries.

Grande-Synthe is the largest camp outside of Calais. We also sent aid to four smaller camps in Angres, Norrent-Fontes, Tatinghem and Steenvoorde.

The French Red Cross is continuing to help people in the camps by providing health check-ups, supported by volunteer interpreters from the British Red Cross.

We are extremely concerned about the situation across northern France, including in Calais. The French Red Cross previously ran a refugee camp known as Sangatte in Calais, until the decision was taken by the British and French governments to close the camp in 2002.

This year the French Red Cross will provide showers and supplies such as soap, toothpaste and first aid kits. They will continue their service that helps people make contact with their families.

In addition to providing emergency relief, the British Red Cross is calling on the British and French governments to improve humanitarian conditions in settlements across northern France. We believe that vulnerable people on the move, regardless of their legal status, should be treated with dignity and respect and have access to basic humanitarian assistance while their case is assessed.

We would also urge the British and French governments to consider providing more safe and legal routes for those fleeing conflict and persecution to claim asylum.

What are you doing in Lesbos?

The humanitarian need in Lesbos is huge. It is particularly acute at the camp in Moira. This has seen a rise in the number of new arrivals and a delay in registrations by the authorities as the systems for processing people are overwhelmed.

The Greek economic crisis has made matters worse. For example, it is now more difficult to source supplies.

The Hellenic Red Cross (Greece’s equivalent to the British Red Cross) and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are working hard in Lesbos. Our local teams are supporting people on their horrendous journeys to safety. They are providing emergency supplies, psychological and emotional support and first aid.

The local Red Cross staff and volunteers have never faced a situation like this before. The routes people are using change almost daily, and new places where people need help are appearing all the time.

Our local teams are continuing to work around-the-clock to help people.

Why aren’t you helping everyone?

No matter what crisis people are facing, we help those most in need, no matter who they are.

We are doing our best to reach the people who are in dire need but of course, we need to do more. That’s why we are running an emergency appeal. We need more funding to reach the worst-hit areas.

We are extremely concerned that this crisis will get worse this winter.

Further questions?

Read our blog: Helping refugees in Europe - your questions answered.