IASSW supports the IFSW Statement: Responding to the Refugee Crisis.


World Social Work Day March 15th 2016

Social workers representative’s worldwide are responding to the refugee crisis and have formulated a five point working plan to:

  1. Coordinate social worker action in each of the affected countries to provide better understandings and responses to refugee needs during their journey, transfer and integration in the asylum countries.
  2. Provide a focused strategy that supports vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied children and young people, older people, those with health issues and trafficked persons.
  3. Establish a comprehensive political advocacy strategy that reflects a ‘ground up’ perspective on refugee needs, aspirations and solutions.
  4. Develop social work models that support refugees in isolated or life threatening situations where other forms of assistance are not available. Including that there will be an increasing number of refuges who face closed boarders or hostile host communities who will face the critical dilemma of staying where they are not welcome or returning to a war situation that may result in their death.
  5. Enhance the skills of social workers working with others to constructively develop inclusive and cohesive societies.

This organised response from the social work profession across international boundaries developed at the professions own initiative, independently from any government and as a result of the absence of any substantial regional or international coordination. The lack of political cohesion has devalued the dignity of those affected by the crisis at all points during their journey and eventual integration into asylum countries or in facing the consequences of returning to a war zone. Social workers will work in partnership with all other agencies and professional groups to maximise results and we hope that this ‘from the ground up’ initiative will act as a catalyst for governments to work with us.

On World Social Work Day 15th March 2016 a symposium comprising social workers from the war countries, transition countries and asylum countries organised by The International Federation of Social Workers, it’s Austrian member OBDS and The Austrian Trade Union movement will be interactively live-streamed world wide recognising that this is a global and not regional crisis. IFSW events will take place in Geneva and New York. This crisis now needs governments to work together to resolve the humanitarian catastrophe now affecting many of the people across the world.

Millions of people caught up in the crisis are working with social workers, some employed by the state or NGOs, and many who are volunteering. They have the skills to work effectively with very traumatised and distressed people. They also act as the catalyst in organising volunteers to welcome and assist the integration of refugees into new areas.


Refugees are not helpless. They have significant resources, skills, strengths, health and education. These human assets should be the foundation for rebuilding societies, evidence from social work interventions across the world speak clearly to engaging people in rebuilding their societies. This is in marked contrast to the denigration that is perpetuated by the ‘humanitarian aid’ mentality.  Governments and agencies should uphold human dignity, ensure that people are treated with dignity and respect in refugee camps, strengthen community and social interdependence and, above all, involve people in all decision-making over their futures.

The inhumanity shown to people escaping war and poverty is a direct result of political failures in many global, regional and national political bodies, which lack the will and the knowledge to do what is needed.

These political bodies have proven they can, when they have the will, find large sums of money to bail out banks and other financial institutions – but they are reluctant to help people in need. Governments have chosen to use military action that inflames the situation rather than invest in diplomatic and political solutions. This void of responsibility is the main obstacle to alleviating the trauma of the people trying to find safety and security.

The political response must therefore look beyond the immediate crisis.  It must focus on creating a worldwide environment enabling sustained social development, as envisaged in the Sustainable Development Goals. Establishing social capital and social justice are prerequisites for peaceful, economically viable and sustainable societies.

IFSW calls on governments, regional bodies and international agencies to show the courage of immediate action, demonstrate humanity and respect for people and involve them in decision-making about their futures.

Contact Information

Vienna                                     Dunja Gharwal: [email protected]

Geneva                                                Klaus Kuehne: [email protected]

IFSW President                        Ruth Stark: [email protected]

IFSW Secretary-General         Rory Truell: [email protected]

IFSW Administrator                 Pascal Rudin [email protected]

Website for more information: www.ifsw.org

Live-stream link to the Vienna Symposium ‘Social Work Response to the Refugee Crisis’, 15th March 2016: http://ifsw.org/live/