The refugee crisis at the heart of the EESC's concerns

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Refugees, as defined under the 1951 Refugee Convention, are entitled to basic rights under international law, including the right not to be immediately deported and sent back into harm's way. A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country because of armed conflict or persecution. Syrians are a prime example.

Over 30 members of the European Economic and Social Committee, representing trade unions, employers and various civil society associations have recently travelled to 11 EU countries and Turkey to assess how these countries are coping with the influx of refugees.

The decision to organize these missions was taken quickly and unanimously because, beyond the ongoing debates in Brussels between representatives of national governments, European civil society is voluntarily, and with almost no institutional support, working every day to humanely welcome those fleeing war and persecution. They are the European citizens who, on a daily basis, are demonstrating Europe's potential for solidarity, and to be constructive and proactive. This is the side of Europe that finds no place in the media, its positive side that developed in the aftermath of war and shows us that solidarity is in the DNA of most European citizens. A supportive and constructive civil society, which is taking action without waiting for the grand political decisions. It is to these volunteers and associations that the Committee will dedicate its work in the coming months.

The Workers' Group is promoting these initiatives, convinced that the reception of refugees is a duty and a fundamental right to which European institutions and national governments should respond.