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IFRC Secretary General and Austrian Red Cross Secretary General call on EU to expand efforts to reach most vulnerable and isolated

Press release

The Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Elhadj As Sy, together with Mr Werner Kerschbaum, Secretary General of Austrian Red Cross, on behalf of all European Union Red Cross Societies, have called on the European Union (EU) to increase its support to people affected by "forgotten” humanitarian crises.

They also repeated their calls for governments to better ensure the protection of vulnerable migrants, and to recognise their right to safety and dignity. ‘’We are deeply concerned with the increasing vulnerabilities of migrants on their way and within Europe. It is our role to remind EU decision makers of the need to uphold migrants' dignity, and bring more humanity to policy discussions” said Mr Kerschbaum.

From left to right: Denis Haveaux, Director of the Red Cross EU Office; Werner Kerschbaum, Secretary General of the Austrian Red Cross;
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR); Elhadj As Sy,
Secretary General of the IFRC. © Georges Boulougouris / European Union

Mr Sy and Mr Kerschbaum made their comments during a high-level visit to Brussels where they met with Mr Martin Schulz, Mr Chrystos Stylianides and Mr Johannes Hahn, respectively the President of the European Parliament, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, and the European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.

"The EU is a key partner of the Red Cross and Red Crescent around the world,” said Mr Sy. "We share a commitment to responding to the needs of the most vulnerable and hardest to reach. There are many situations today where communities are suffering in near silence, and where humanitarian organisations are unable to raise the resources they need to act effectively.

"Across southern Africa, millions are affected by severe drought and food insecurity. In the Lake Chad Basin, millions more are at risk from a combination of environmental degradation, deep poverty and violent unrest. In Latin America, our efforts to contain and mitigate the Zika Virus outbreak and support recovery after the Ecuador earthquake are constrained by a lack of funding. I call on our EU partners to increase support for these "forgotten” crises.”

From left to right: Handshake between Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the IFRC, and Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management (DG ECHO). © Georges Boulougouris / European Union

Mr Sy, Mr Kerschbaum and the EU officials also discussed the continued humanitarian response to vulnerable migrants in Europe, including in Greece where the Hellenic Red Cross, with the support of the IFRC and the EU, has supported more than 300,000 people, and in Turkey where the Turkish Red Crescent is working to support 500,000 people displaced by the conflict in Syria. 

‘’The EU and its Member States must consider the vulnerabilities created by conditions and risks that are encountered throughout the migratory trail and uphold standards and rights for all, irrespective of their legal status.’’ Mr Kerschbaum said.

They reiterated their call for the wellbeing of migrants to be at the centre of all policies. "It is important that all policies recognise the right of people to be treated with dignity and respect, and take into account the specific needs of those most vulnerable,” Mr Sy said.

Discussions also covered humanitarian response operations and collaboration in Syria and Libya, the need for improved support to neighbouring countries that are hosting millions of refugees, as well as the outcomes of last week’s World Humanitarian Summit.

From left to right: Mr Werner Kerschbaum, Secretary General of the Austrian Red Cross; Mr Martin Schulz, President
of the European Parliament; Mr As Sy, Secretary General of the IFRC. © European Parliament

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 190 member National Societies. Together, IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit

For further information, please contact:

In Brussels:

Lavinia Baciu, Communications Officer, Red Cross EU Office, tel: +32 4847 13778, email:

In Budapest:

Linda Low, Regional Communications Manager, Europe, IFRC, tel: +36 709537704, email:

In Geneva:

Benoit Carpentier, Team Leader – Public Communications, IFRC, tel: +41 79 213 2413, email:, Twitter: @BenoistC

For media inquiries, please contact Eva Oyón on: or +32 2 235 09 22

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