US & World

Charities, large and small, give migrants critical aid

Migrants walk on train tracks towards the town of Gevgelija after broking a cordon of Macedonian special police forces on August 22, 2015. Hundreds of refugees broke through barbed wire fencing bordering Macedonia despite a heavy police presence. Macedonia said it had declared a
Migrants walk on train tracks towards the town of Gevgelija after broking a cordon of Macedonian special police forces on August 22, 2015. Hundreds of refugees broke through barbed wire fencing bordering Macedonia despite a heavy police presence. Macedonia said it had declared a "state of emergency" on its southern border with Greece and would draft in the army to help control the influx of migrants crossing the frontier.
ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Charities and humanitarian organizations provide critical aid to waves of migrants arriving in Europe, hungry and exhausted, or sometimes ill, after long, treacherous journeys and still hoping to reach their chosen destination in the West. From food to clothes and medical help, these groups have reached out with a human touch to weary, mostly unwelcome, travelers.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of organizations, some well known, others grassroots, at work in various countries behind the scenes or on the ground.


Some large NGOs working in various countries:

1. Doctors of the World (Medecins du Monde)

Based in France, it's on the front lines in Germany, where the number of migrants is expected to reach 800,000 this year, and with mobile clinics in Calais, the French port city on the English Channel where thousands of migrants try to sneak into Britain. With its mobile clinics, like those used "in the aftermath of a natural disaster," the organization is the only charitable group offering health care in Calais.

Its site notes that donations go to "real needs on the ground," not to urgent situations highlighted by media coverage, allowing the organization to decide where funds are most needed at any given time.

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2. Doctors Without Borders

Working in Greece, a frontline entry point for migrants, as well as in Germany, Spain and other migrant points. Doctors Without Borders prefers donations without restrictions so it can allocate funds as needed, where needed. It does, however, offer donors the possibility of designating funds to the migrant program.

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3. International Red Cross

ICRC and its various national affiliates, via International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, carry out work in Italy, a main arrival point, Germany, Turkey (Red Crescent) and other migrant points.

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The Spanish Red Cross has set up a fund-raising campaign for migrants as well. 

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4. United Nations High Commission for Refugees

While tens of thousands of refugees are in visible distress as they trek through Europe, many more suffer silently in Syria and in huge camps in surrounding countries. The UN refugee agency's appeals for Syria have fallen far short of what is needed. Not an NGO, but the UNHCR seeks donations.

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Some small or local organizations:

1. Hungary

Migration Aid says it is dedicated to helping refugees reach camps to apply for asylum. However, it is currently providing support to migrants on the road in Hungary and, particularly, at Keleti train station in Budapest where migrants have spent days trying to get to Germany instead. Hungarian authorities say 160,000 migrants have reached Hungary this year.

The group does not accept clothes, except raincoats, and wants blankets, sleeping bags and food, as well as funds.

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Hungarian Helsinki Committee is the main group lobbying on behalf of migrants' rights.

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2. Italy

Doctors Without Borders plays a special role in Italy with two ships, The Bourbon Argos and Dignity I, which rescue migrants and refugees from smugglers' unseaworthy boats in the Mediterranean north of Libya. In Italy, it also cares for medical needs of rescued migrants in Sicily, where most of those saved arrive, and has mobile clinics in Rome, that assist at Tiburtina train station and near a center helping migrants.

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Centro Astalli is run by the Jesuit Refugee Service. Established in 1981, and located in Rome with structures throughout the city, it has helped feed and shelter asylum seekers or those granted asylum but in need. One residence shelters female refugees alone or with children.

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3. Malta

Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) describes itself as a "search-and-rescue charity." It operates a 40-meter (130-foot) long ship, M.Y. Phoenix, that has participated in rescue missions, often part of operations involving ships from many nations.

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4. France

Auberge des Migrants, grassroots organization in Calais providing food, clothing, covers and advice.

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Salam, grassroots organization in Calais that distributes one daily meal to migrants and basic necessities from toothpaste to covers.

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5. Czech Republic

Various rights groups, including People In Need, created an umbrella organization, the Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations in the Czech Republic.

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