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. 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. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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…

  8. 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.

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