Ferrying Services for Refugees

Can we not expect private people to help the refugees to have a safe journey to Europe? They pay anyway, but to the wrong people, crooks and smugglers who are responsible for the death of many people in their shaky boats, including many children.

The Egyptian billionaire magnate Naguib Sawiris published months ago an article he wanted to buy an island near Greece to settle all the refugees there. But I haven’t heard anything so far as to the realization of that idea.

It’s perhaps not what is really good for them: they must be integrated and serve Europe for that is the justifier for not sending them back under international law. They serve a very good purpose in an aging society that needs young human capital and especially a work force, as services are generally too expensive in Europe and even in the US much cheaper (think only of barbers). To put them on an island is also dangerous for they could easily be attacked by armed right wing forces and wiped out with one single nuke.

My idea concerns the sea journey. Can this not be organized by responsible private companies who perhaps get a little aid by person transferred (let’s say 10% of the cost) for offering really cheap but safe journeys. Could that not be a profitable business? Think only of what Mohammad Yunus did in Bangladesh and now worldwide with micro credits. Everybody said it could never be profitable, and yes, it is not made to generate a profit, but it does cover all the cost, so it’s a sustainable business.


  1. I think it is a very good idea to address the refugees journey, a source of much risk, stress and abuse to refugees. There are several ways of doing this – one is, as you say through private people who take groups of refugees with them in safe commercial transport (ferries, established sailing companies, or even ground transportation companies). This would require, however, an existing international agreement that stipulates the right of refugees to board international transport and go through immigration checkpoints under a recognised refugee-in-journey status. I don’t think something like this is yet in place but it would certainly open up many good possibilities to address the journey of refugees.

    Another option for interested individuals that have private sailboats, yatchs, and so on, would be to take refugees with them on their vehicles in a safe and legally recognised manner – otherwise the line to distinguish these from abusive smugglers could become blurry.

    And yet another option would be to formally set up governmental programmes to specifically help refugees in their journeys, either using government vehicles or outsourcing the transport of refugees to designated transportation firms and NGOs.

    A combination of these would be ideal, but in any case, I think it is a very good idea to address the journey! As for the financing, yes, I’m sure it could be sustained, either through microfinancing, some forms of P2P financing or through crowdfunding, in addition to the EU and government specific funds for the refugee crisis. Last year a number of crowdfunding projects for refugees were quite successful, to the point that even the UN used crowdfunding:

    A programme with a lot of potential, started by a German couple is: ‘Refugees Welcome’: http://www.refugees-welcome.net
    I’ve seen they now have a base in several European countries.

    Yes, I think I heard of the refugee island project. I think it didn’t gain traction or support, and as you say, it is really not the solution. The integration of refugees can represent a great cultural and economic opportunity to revitalise European societies if it’s done well, and it is really the way to go.

    You have very relevant and important reflections here!

  2. Peter Fritz Walter

    February 11, 2016 at 4:39 am

    Thanks so much for your smart and detailed comment, Inawe. I appreciate your contribution to the discussion of this important topic. Your suggestions inspire me and encourage me, showing that solutions are well feasible, and not just utopian. Life has taught me that it’s simply too easy to declare problems as unsolvables as when we look innocently for options, we always find them. I very much hope that if governments in Europe continue to debate solutions instead of coming up with them when they are needed, private capital and inventiveness has to jump in, even if it’s for mere profit reasons, for that’s still better than procrastinating. The right solution is perhaps Muhammad Yunus’ cutting-edge business model of the ‘social business’ which is a business model without profit gain, but well with a total covering of all cost and a return of all investments. It has worked for Grameen bank and works now internationally for many of Yunus’ other businesses, and it could work for this business of relocating refugees in a safe manner. Here is the reference to Yunus’ second book in which he exposes and explains the idea in all detail:

    Muhammad Yunus, Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs, New York: PublicAffairs, 2011

  3. I truly appreciate the idea my friend…and I agree with Inwa…and … to address the refugees journey, we need so much collaboration , we need private people to contribute as well as governments in Europe and especially Arabic goverments

    Yes my friend I agree with you…Yunus ‘social buisness can sustain and serve Refugees in their journey as Yunus suggested ” if we can put the social business engine in the picture, we will be able to achieve positive results.”

    Lacking viable legal routes to third countries, many people, including refugees from Syria are often turning to smugglers, at great cost and danger to their lives. More than 744,175 arrivals to Europe by sea alone have been recorded in 2015, 53 percent of them Syrian nationals. The journey to Europe is in many cases full of abuse, exploitation, and human rights violations, including sexual abuse against women and children. People will continue to make these dangerous journeys of last resort for as long as the status quo where they are seems hopeless and they have no safe options to get to third countries.


  4. Peter Fritz Walter

    February 11, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Thanks very much for your information. It’s an issue even more urgent than I initially thought. I did not know that there are 50% children, I thought much less. This urges us to do something about this transportation problem. I’ll be very glad to have more of your ideas.

  5. My dear friend we really need to think about syrian children my friend…they need to be educated…they need a safe environment to grow in, More than half of registered refugees are children my friend…we need to protect them…Unicef described them as a lost generation…about 5 years into the conflict in Syria children are paying the heaviest price my dear…here I suggest your social policies and your creative-c kindergarten as a feasible solution my friend…I know we need so much effort and work but together and with the contribution of our friends we can serve syrian children my friend, we are not going to serve them all…for it is impossible for us and it is the mission of goverments and of the world as whole but we can serve many…we need our voice to be heard…we want practical solutions my friend…together we can

  6. Thank you so much my friend…I will come up with more ideas…thank you so much my friend…we really need to help them by all means…

  7. Peter Fritz Walter

    February 11, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Thanks for your contribution, Jaziri. I am currently reading Muhammad Yunus’ book about social business. It is one of the most important books I have read in my life and I am going to write an extensive review.

  8. Thank you so much my friend…Muhammad Yunus is a great hero my friend…a true one…I will read your extensive review my friend…thank you so much for your work :)

  9. Thank you for all this information that you are sharing and the ideas you are elaborating. This is indeed an urgent matter and it is great to see these thoughts being mobilised.

    I think we must also think about the logistics involved in a social business like this. I’m sure it is viable, and much needed, but to provide safety to the refugees in their journeys we must also take into account all the economic interests by strong mafias and smugglers that are profiting from the extortion and abuse of desperate refugees. They have successfully identified key routes refugees take, key crossing points, and key locations, and we’d have to be very aware of their geographical tactics to respond in ways that ensure the integrity of refugees in transit.

    In this sense, I think this social enterprise would really benefit from liaising with the UN and EU agencies to have a network of institutional support in order to face the threats of refugee-smuggling mafias.

  10. Peter Fritz Walter

    February 11, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Excellent idea! Thanks for sharing it here with us, I am grateful for your contributions. With my international law background, I would surely feel more competent in ‘up to the task’ to build the necessary links to these supranational authorities than taking care of the business itself. This being said, I would have to rely on expert advice and help for the core business part. It is not my expertise and after my wake-up call in real estate I have learnt that we should not step out of our learned knowledge, for otherwise we risk to make ‘incompetent’ decisions.

  11. Absolutely, your background in International Law would be very, very helpful here. In fact, I think that along with the transport logistics, the legal aspects of operating in international waters and under diverse jurisdictions would be core to the business. And, yes, it would be very good to rely on expert advice for the business administration side of things!

  12. Peter Fritz Walter

    February 12, 2016 at 6:18 am

    Thanks for pointing this out more in detail. Your argument actually frees me from anxiety for I do not feel up to the task of business management. It is not my expertise, despite the fact that for my law degree, I had to spend one obligatory semester on economics but it was an ordeal and I understood strictly nothing about it. So I will find out first what the situation is under international law, if such a service is feasible at all.

  13. Successfully establishing a safe and reilable ocean ferry service for Syrian people leaving the war torn country is an excellent idea and a public works project demanding immediate attention. Private funders of this project would be doing a wonderful and life saving mission by providing funds and logistics to make this life saving mission possible. In cooperation with EU governments, this ferry service proposal could only be possible from the EU shores and at least working from there and perhaps meeting refugees half way. Entering Syrian water space is a concern with regard to logisitics support and project management. If entering Syrian water space is of no concern legally, the ferry service to Greece or Turkey would be easy. Also, armed ferry agents from EU law enforcement would need to be on board these ships. Make a long story short, this human services rescue mission is a great idea that cannot wait. If all pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly well, the Syrian people will pay only a small affordable fare for safe passage to the EU instead of paying fucked up criminals that place the people in worn out unsafe wooden boats equipped with a half ass working engine that has a great probablity of dying before reaching shore thus putting 40-60 lives in danger.

  14. Peter Fritz Walter

    February 13, 2016 at 5:34 am

    Thanks for posting your comment, Nelson. I appreciate it and will inform the others about it.

  15. Thank you my freind…thank you Nelson for you comment…we really want that all pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly as you mention…we need to work together to make this possible…thank you so much…

  16. My friend, I really think that The Greek and Turkey coastguards can really help Refugees in their sea journey but we really need a permessive and good coastguard between the two countris to sustain the arrive of refugees…the two countries must cooperate to rescue the lives of Refugees…

    The Greek coastguard has been accused of trying to sink a boat with Syrian migrants in the Aegean Sea. On November 12, 2015, a video released by the Turkish Institute of Public Diplomacy showing a man on board a ship bearing the Greek Coast Guard’s insignia. He is attempting to strike an inflatable raft full of refugees with a long pole or lance when the refugees came alongside the vessel.

    The boat is later seen half-sunk with people on board desperately waving for help from the Turkish Coast guard. According to Reuters, the video has been brought to the attention of the head of the Greek coast guard, Vice Admiral Athanasios Athanasopoulos.





  17. Peter Fritz Walter

    February 15, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Thanks for your comment and this important, and scandalizing, information. I would never have thought this could occur, but we all are only humans. This person, however, needs to be punished with all the force of the law, in order to prevent this from happening again. I am in favor, therefore, of Nato’s deployment of three cruise ships under German command whose authority is namely to come to the rescue of capsized refugee boats, and save human lives. I am in favor of Nato and EU responsibilizing themselves and start a new dialogue, namely what we are discussing here in this blog: the question of safe transportation. I am also as a lawyer concerned about the fact that human lives are in the hands of crooks, and criminals, who exploit refugees, in all possible ways, also sexually, and governments have to put an end to this. It is our responsibility to give human lives over to adept and proven individuals, and put an end to criminal behavior. It is actually also a question of international law to handle this question responsibly.

  18. Thank you so much for your extensive reply my friend, I fully agree with you

  19. Thank you Jaziri for pointing this out. It goes to show all the harm humans can do when ignorance prevails. I think social media can also be very helpful to document and try to prevent more of these atrocities.

  20. Peter Fritz Walter

    February 16, 2016 at 3:08 am

    Thanks for your response, Inawe. It is a good idea to use social media to promote transparency and inform about human rights violations, be they committed by individuals or nation states.

  21. Thank you Inawe…thank you my friend, I will always use social media for transparency my friends.

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