Overview of the European Migrant Crisis

Featured image courtesy of Reuters

An image of a drowned Syrian child on a Turkey beach has resulted in mass outrage, and shed light onto the European Migrant crisis that is dividing the continent. The refugees of the crisis originate from the Middle East, most notably from Syria where the civil war has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Many of these refugees are travelling across the Mediterranean Sea in makeshift boats, and as a result thousands have drowned while attempting to make the journey.

In November 2014 an Italian anvil operation in the Mediterranean known as ‘Mare Nostrum’ was scrapped. This mission picked up migrants and safely transported them to refugee camps, but it was deemed too expensive and instead replaced with a far smaller EU operation with just a third of the budget and resources. This, combined with the intensifying fighting in Syria, resulted in 480 migrants dying in the January to March period of 2015, compared to just 50 in 2014. The Italian coastguard restarted their mission but soon the influx of refugees was overwhelming the force. It estimated that over 4,000 migrants have drowned since the crisis escalated in late 2014.

Carsten Rehder/EPA

Carsten Rehder/EPA

The crisis has started a large debate in Europe over the treatment of the migrants. The right wing of Europe, notably the UK independence Party, has campaigned that many of the migrants should be turned away, while many have also embraced the people. It is estimated that Germany will take in 800,000 asylum seekers this year and many Germans are split over the issue. Many believe that it will have a negative impact on the German economy, while a huge part of the population has offered to house refugees in their own homes.

Earlier this week the British newspaper ‘The Independent’ printed a photo of 3 year old ‘Aylan Kurdi’ washed up face down on the shore of the Greek Island of Kos. His family originated from Syria, and his mother and sister had both also drowned along with 9 other migrants that day when there boat capsized. The photo struck a chord with the public of Europe, and ‘Save the Children’ reported a fifteen-fold rise in donations by the next day. The crisis had not truly grasped the attention for many people due to the vagueness of the deaths, but suddenly this picture gave the situation a new reality. A week after the photo was printed the UK announced it would take in 15,000 more refugees, and the EU are currently holding crisis talks. However it is still unknown if the situation will be helped, and whether photos like that of Alyan’s will be more common in years to come.

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