The Refugee Crisis: What is to be Done? - RSA

The Refugee Crisis: What is to be Done?

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Durham Street Auditorium, RSA House

  • Communities
  • Public services
  • Philosophy

“If Europe fails on the question of refugees, its close connection with universal civil rights will be destroyed.” Angela Merkel

Whilst we may have suffered a collective failure of imagination up until this point, no-one now can now fail to acknowledge the shocking human fall-out of conflict in Syria. Europe is experiencing the biggest wave of mass-migration since the second world war, and the vast majority of Britons are reflecting on their individual and national duty to the displaced masses.

We are in the midst of a seismic moment in history, and leaders Europe-wide are responding to mounting public pressure. David Cameron reacted to the shift in the national mood by increasing the UK’s refugee resettlement offer and pledging to divert a proportion of the overseas aid budget to help local councils cope.

But is it enough? Just over a million petitioners have called for Britain to do even more, and yet the BBC’s opinion polls show that the majority of people in the UK do not want to see borders opened further. With public services already squeezed, ongoing housing shortages and no clear roadmap of how we sustainably integrate asylum seekers, how do we design practical ways forward? What are our moral obligations, and can we create compassionate, pragmatic policies that reflect those?


Get Involved 

The audience at this event reflected the growing public concern for the welfare of refugees.  At a grassroots level, there is evidently a great deal of hope, enthusiasm and practical knowledge as to how we could better organise ourselves to provide support. It was highlighted by all the speakers that this issue is not merely a media frenzy that will die down, and therefore it is critical that the central tenet of the conversation around ‘what is to be done’ continues.

Below you'll find details of key Fellow-led projects which need your help, as well as information about ways to donate and volunteer to help with the crisis. There is space at the bottom of this page for comments and discussion, so do add your voice to the debate. 


Fellow-led initiatives 

A number of RSA Fellows are leading initiatives which support refugees and need your help and support:   


Bold Vision 

Catherine Shovlin FRSA is working with Bold Vision; a charity who are twinning their local community in New Cross, London, with a village in Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. They have already made one visit in July to do research to improve the wellbeing of camp residents (based on research from the RSA Social Mirror project). They need:

  • Contacts with useful people in Department for International  Development, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Overseas Development Agency, and other agencies involved in the crisis 
  • Donations 



An offshoot of Bablel verse, co-founded by Mayel de Borniol,  project "Babel Swarm" aims to help refugees better communicate with officials, medics, lawyers, press, and anybody else on the road or at their destination, by quickly connecting them on the phone with a bilingual or linguist who speaks their language. They’re looking for a wide range of people who may help with the project: 

  • Bilinguals and interpreters
  • People who can help with outreach (especially if they're on the ground)
  • Programmers
  • Links to humanitarian orgs or government agencies. 

If you’d like to offer assistance, please get in touch here


Kissitown refugee project, Sierra Leone

While the situation in Europe is currently making the headlines, conflict in other parts of the world are also creating thousands of displaced people each year, all of whom require help. Teacher Gary Byrne FRSA has been running a project for four years in Kissitown Refugee camp in Waterloo, Sierra Leone. As a consequence, the children at Gary’s school helped to raise money for 4000 mosquito nets to be sent to the camp the following year which has resulted in a 50 percent reduction in deaths. They now need help to make the electric supply sustainable as there is a little money for fuel for generators. If you would like to be involved in supporting this project please get in touch with Gary.



Cash donations enable relief agencies to cater to the specific needs of the affected population as quickly as possible. Many international organisations are working in the UK, across Europe and in the countries refugees are fleeing from to provide aid and assistance. Recommended and experienced humanitarian and relief agencies that you can support include:



The following organisations provide listings of volunteering opportunities: 


RSA Fellowship 

The RSA’s 27,000 Fellows are committed to positive social change and we know that many would be willing to support organisations which are tackling the crisis. If your organisation has specific opportunities to utilise the skills within the Fellowship please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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