Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Migrant Crisis: No End in Sight
New York Times
FEB. 3, 2016

The perilous flight of refugees continues, with some 67,000 asylum seekers traveling to Europe last month. Meanwhile, the European Union and international donors are poised to increase their aid to one desperate group: Syrians displaced by war.

The refugees keep coming.

Forced from their homes by war and economic deprivation, tens of thousands of migrants made the perilous journey to Europe last month.

These asylum seekers, the latest surge in a great tide of human movement, have braved winter weather, stormy seas and closed borders in their escape from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa.

On Thursday in London, the European Union and international donors are expected to pledge to increase their aid to Syrians displaced by war.

The toll, whether measured in lives or in dollars, is staggering.

Volunteers helped migrants arriving in November in Lesbos, Greece, one of the main entrance points for asylum seekers trying to reach Western Europe.

More People, Fewer Choices

More than 67, 000 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea since the start of the year. By comparison, 5,000 migrants made the journey across the Mediterranean in January 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration.

These newcomers join more than one million people who sought refuge in Europe last year. But more telling than the total number of migrants is the number who have been formally resettled: 190 in 2015, despite pledges to relocate almost 200,000.

“We have to go,” said Mohamed Salem Abrahim, a 17-year-old Afghan trying to make his way to Germany. Mohamed arrived in Greece two months ago after traveling through Iran and catching a leaky boat from Turkey. “What is the choice — to stay in our country and be killed, or come to Europe where we can be free?”

Desperate Children

This year, 368 people have died making the journey across the Mediterranean, 60 of them children, migration figures show.

Since the beginning of the year 19,781 minors have arrived in Europe, almost one-third of the total number of people making the journey.

On Saturday, 10 children drowned when a boat carrying them and their families crashed on rocks near Ayvacik, a Turkish resort town. Photos of at least two of the children, their lifeless bodies on a rocky shore, were disturbingly similar to the photographs of the 3-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi that circulated on the Internet in September. The public outcry over repeated images of smartly dressed children washed up on Europe’s shores has been muted.

Women and children now make up most of the migrants entering Europe, surpassing single men, who were once the majority of travelers, according to Unicef.

For children, the journey is far more dangerous than a single boat trip. At least 10,000 unaccompanied minors have disappeared in Europe over the past year, according to Europol, the European division of Interpol. Many of those children have slipped through the bureaucratic cracks and found shelter with family members, but the police warned that many others have likely been kidnapped by traffickers.

New Restrictions

Citizens from 149 countries applied for asylum in Europe in 2015, according to the European Union, but the vast majority came from just three places: Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Germany, followed by Hungary and Sweden, received the most asylum applicants last year.

During the first half of 2015, 668,000 immigrants, including other Europeans and asylum seekers, entered Germany, according the German Interior Ministry, and the total for last year is expected to be around one million.

It is increasingly difficult for those who arrive in Greece and elsewhere to make their way to northern Europe as more countries close their borders to migrants.

Mounting Costs

Leaders from Europe and other world powers, including the United States, are expected to double, to $2 billion, the amount of aid they pledged to Syrian migrants last year. That is in addition to nearly $3 billion European Union leaders pledged to Turkey in November to help its government keep refugees from leaving that country for Europe.

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