The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has published a brochure about the 2016 Civil Society Prize, drawing attention to the work of European civil society organisations and citizens who have come up with innovative ways to help refugees and migrants amidst the growing nationalistic, xenophobic and racist trends that have emerged during the recent migrant crisis in Europe.
The brochure, entitled How Civil Society Organisations Assist Refugees and Migrants in the EU: Successful experiences and promising practices from the 2016 EESC Civil Society Prize, presents the five winning projects and gives a general overview of the other initiatives entered for the prize. It describes their themes, areas of intervention, highlights and results.
"There is a positive and profoundly inspiring side to the European refugee crisis which has not yet received sufficient attention," writes EESC president Georges Dassis in the foreword. "The EESC recognised the existence of many bottom-up initiatives by civil society organisations and European citizens who have played a decisive and visible role in filling the protection and integration gaps left by EU and national policies ...".
The first prize, awarded by the EESC in December, went to Hungary's Artemisszió Foundation for its mentorship programmes for refugees. The other prize-winners were: an organisation which rescues refugees at sea; another which provides immediate support for refugees upon their arrival; a project encouraging host and migrant families to sit down together and share a meal; and a now-famous Greek baker who distributes over 100 kilos of bread daily to refugees on the island of Kos.
The EESC received 271 eligible applications from 26 member states for the 2016 prize. This is the highest number since the Civil Society Prize was launched in 2006 to reward excellence and achievement among civil society organisations in the EU.
The EUR 50 000 prize is shared between five winners and each year covers a different theme within the scope of the EESC's work.
In 2016 it focused on projects showcasing human solidarity against the backdrop of the massive flow of refugees and subsequent humanitarian crisis. Most of the initiatives proposed for the prize involved training, education, information provision and mentoring programmes. Other projects included legal aid, psychological counselling or staging artistic or cultural projects to combat prejudice and break down stereotypes about refugees and migrants.
The EESC hopes that its award will help the selected organisations secure the resources they need to continue their projects. The Committee is already preparing the 2017 Civil Society Prize, whose theme will be announced in due course.