Israeli NGO sending team to help refugees in Europe
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Israeli NGO sending team to help refugees in Europe

IsraAid chief says that 'as a nation that suffered the atrocities of the Holocaust, we can't not extend a hand to help'

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A migrant boy holds a sign reading 'SOS help me' as he sits with other migrants in front of the Keleti (East) railway station in Budapest on September 2, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEK)
A migrant boy holds a sign reading 'SOS help me' as he sits with other migrants in front of the Keleti (East) railway station in Budapest on September 2, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEK)

Israeli aid agency IsraAid said Thursday that it would send a team to the European countries grappling with the largest influx of refugees to the Continent since World War II.

The civilian disaster organization will provide food and supplies, as well as assisting authorities and local organizations to improve the psychosocial well-being of the refugees and assist in absorption efforts, the organization said.

“As a nation that has suffered the atrocities of the Holocaust, and routinely stands in the face of threats, we can’t not extend a hand to help the tens of thousands of asylum seekers looking for refuge after fleeing the atrocities in the Middle East and Africa,” IsraAid’s founding director Shachar Zehavi said in a statement.

Europe is struggling to deal with the influx of 350,000 refugees — mostly displaced Syrians fleeing the brutality of the Islamic State militants and the ongoing civil war — who have risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe. The trend shows no sign of slowing as war and turmoil across the Middle East and North Africa drive millions of people from their homes.

This year, at least 2,000 people have drowned en route to Europe when dangerously overcrowded boats operated by traffickers capsized or sank. The image of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the shores of Turkey sent shock waves around the world and highlighted the plight of the refugees.

In recent years, the Israel-based humanitarian organization has sent teams to work with displaced populations and deliver humanitarian aid in disaster-struck countries including Iraqi Kurdistan, South Sudan, Nepal, Kenya and Haiti.

Zehavi said that the group’s prior work in the Middle East and North Africa has equipped the IsraAid team to effectively assist relief efforts by providing a bridge to greater cultural understanding between refugees and European officials.

AFP contributed to this report.

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