Body on the beach: Europe’s refugee scandal

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UPDATED 9/3/2015: The Independent published a heart-wrenching photo of a dead child who washed ashore on a beach in Turkey. He is Syrian, one of more than 2,000 refugees who have died this year trying to escape to Europe. The Independent explained:

“The Independent has taken the decision to publish these images because, among the often glib words about the “ongoing migrant crisis”, it is all too easy to forget the reality of the desperate situation facing many refugees.”

The refugee crisis is hitting Europe, but the impact is uneven, falling most heavily on Turkey. NPR’s Ari Shapiro summarizes:

“Here in Turkey, where I am now, 2 million refugees have fled the civil war in Syria. Compare that with Europe, where the total number of migrants who have arrived by sea this year is about 250,000, according to the International Organization for Migration. So all of Europe has taken in one-eighth of the people that Turkey has.”

Moreover, Europe hasn’t really “taken in” these refugees —

“The EU plan to relocate some of the migrants involves relocating 40,000 people over two years. And this is a plan that countries can opt out of. The United Kingdom, for example, has just decided not to participate at all.”

Greece, Turkey, Italy, Hungary — none of these are wealthy countries, but they bear the brunt of the refugee exodus from Syria and other war-ravaged countries. This is what Greece’s refugee crisis really looks like, reports The Nation. The island of Lesbos has received 75,000 refugees this year, with another 55,000 landing elsewhere in Greece:

“Yet in the transit camps on Lesbos, there is no sign that Europe will take responsibility for a political crisis that is driving thousands of people into these unlivable conditions. Instead, the job of taking care of the refugees has been left up to local volunteers and a handful of under-equipped NGOs….

“Because of the Greek economic crisis as well as their experience in the islands, not a single refugee I have spoken to intends to stay in Greece, but their Greek registration documents are not considered enough identification to allow them to book flights to their intended EU destination country. That puts refugees at greater risk and puts more money into the pockets of human traffickers—like the ones who let 71 people suffocate in the back of a truck discovered in Austria last week.”

European leaders will hold an emergency meeting of interior ministers on September 14, according to BBC, but for now:

“The crisis has overwhelmed Europe’s leaders. There is no plan….

“Europe has been torn between upholding its values of protecting the vulnerable from war and persecution and wanting to limit the numbers at a time when 18 million people in the eurozone are without work. Youth unemployment is still at 21.9%.

“For a long period, migration has been dealt with by deception and a political sleight of hand.”

With European unemployment still high, the refugees have met with xenophobia and attacks, sometimes political and sometimes physical. Hungary is building a wall and stopping trains. Germany promises to fight racism, after attacks on refugee shelters. Some European plans call for funding refugee reception centers in Greece and Italy, or even in Africa.

But there are rays of hope amidst the turmoil. Germany actually needs more workers, and one German mayor is asking for refugees to come to his town.

Iceland’s government said it would take 50 Syrian refugees. But the people of Iceland said that wasn’t enough: 10,000 offered to host refugees, and now the government says it will re-evaluate its quota.

Meanwhile, the United States has said it will take up to 8,000 Syrian refugees. The International Rescue Committee says that’s not enough, especially as the United States “has taken in just 1,434 Syrian refugees since the conflict began.”

Good articles with more information and analysis:

[Updated 9/3/2015 with link to additional article giving details of Aylan’s story.]

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One response to “Body on the beach: Europe’s refugee scandal

  1. Pingback: Act now to save the next child | News Day

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