The existence of war-torn regions are a bane to development and humanity. With a rapid increase in the violence in the parts of Asia, Europe and Africa, the situation keeps on worsening. But amidst the chaos of terrorist groups and rogue nations, there’s something the world always forgets about: refugees.
In the years following 2015, Europe has experienced the greatest mass movement of people since the Second World War. Consisting of more than a million refugees and migrants fleeing from the terror and destruction in Syria and other troubled countries, this is known as the European refugee crisis.
Vulnerable people from the adjoining terrorized regions come to the EU to seek asylum. Be it to avail basic amenities, or to improve their economic status, as much as 1.3 million refugees and migrants have come to Europe in a single year. Due to this, The European Union has a moral and legal obligation to protect those in need.
Most of the unauthorised foreign migrants came from Muslim-majority countries of regions south and east of Europe, including Western Asia, South Asia and Africa. The conflict in Syria continues to be by far the biggest cause of migration. But the ongoing violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, abuses in Eritrea, as well as poverty in Kosovo, are also leading people to look for new lives elsewhere.
Due to its proximity to the mediterranean sea, Greece and Italy get more than their share of the migrants. Many of these people eventually want to reach other EU countries such as Germany or Sweden. Just like the arrival of refugees, the asylum applications, too, affect some countries more than the others. In 2015, 75 % of all asylum applications were registered in just five Member States (Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Austria and Italy), with Germany receiving the highest. Hungary moved into second place for asylum applications, as more migrants made the journey overland through Greece and the Western Balkans.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that more than 1,011,700 migrants arrived by sea in 2015, and almost 34,900 by land*. The EU’s external border force, Frontex, monitored the different routes migrants use and numbers arriving at Europe’s borders and put the figure crossing into Europe in 2015 at more than 1,800,000. Out of these, almost 90% of the refugees and migrants have paid organised criminals and people smugglers to get them across borders. Most of those heading for Greece take the short voyage from Turkey, often in flimsy rubber dinghies or small wooden boats.
However, the journey has its own perils. The number of sea deaths reach a new high when five boats carrying almost 2,000 migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea, with a combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200 people. The summer months are usually when the most fatalities occur as it is the busiest time for migrants attempting to reach Europe.
Based on a European Commission proposal, Member States have agreed for the first time to relocate 160 000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other EU countries by September 2017. Although Germany has had the most asylum applications in 2015, Hungary had the highest in proportion to its population. However, due to an increase in terror attacks in Europe, such as the ones in Paris, Berlin, London, and more recently, Manchester, more countries are becoming reluctant to take in these refugees.
The European Union has rolled out a couple of policies to curb this crisis. It includes:
- Providing humanitarian assistance: The EU has dedicated over €10 billion from the EU budget to dealing with the refugee crisis in 2015 and 2016. The EU also provides humanitarian aid to refugees and migrants in countries outside the EU, such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
- Relocation and Resettlement: The EU also wants to create safe and legal ways for asylum seekers to enter the EU so that they don’t have to risk their lives and life savings by turning to smugglers and traffickers.The EU has set up reception centres in Greece and Italy to help the authorities in these countries to manage the migration flows. It has also relocated individuals from countries overflowing this migrants, to the ones that can still take more.
- Agreement with Turkey: The EU and Turkey agreed in March 2016 that irregular migrants and asylum seekers arriving on the Greek islands from Turkey may be returned to Turkey. For every Syrian returned to Turkey from the Greek islands after an irregular crossing, the EU will take in a Syrian from Turkey who has not sought to make this journey in an irregular way.
Despite these solutions, the refugee crisis is far from being controlled. However, this is definitely a start.