Europe Creaks As Migration Crisis Height
Aylan’s Death And Global Burden
THEY risk everything. They cut across races, gender and age. But they have one thing in common; search for a succour and they will rather die trying in their relentless, but desperate journeys to enter Europe either through the Italian island of Lampedusa, the city of Calais (where the Eurotunnel starts), Bodrum in Turkey, or the eastern islands of Greece, or the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco.
The picture gets alarmingly clearer as the photographs of a three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, found dead on a beach in Turkey hit every home across the world. Aylan and his family were making a final, desperate attempt to flee to relatives in Canada even though their asylum application had been rejected, according to reports.
By the time he was born, Syria was already at war. He died with his five-year-old brother, Ghalib, and mother, Rehan. Their father, Abdullah, survived. Without the war, which has completely obliterated an otherwise stable and fairly wealthy Arab nation, it is doubtful if Aylan and his family
would have embarked on such desperately perilous journey. His home town, Kobani, was bombarded during heavy fighting this year between Islamic State and Kurdish fighters.
Over 2, 600 deaths have been recorded in the last eight months. Out of which an estimated 800 were lost in a single shipwreck in April, drawing attention to the growing humanitarian crisis on Europe’s shores. The EU Commissioner in charge of migration declared the situation as the worst migrant crisis since World War II. Ms. Angela Merkel called it the biggest challenge of her decade in power as Germany’s chancellor. Her country has, however, emerged as the defender of a more generous policy towards refugees, taking the lead in speaking out about Europe’s obligations. Germany expects to receive 800,000 asylum seekers this year — more than the whole of the EU combined in 2014.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron, while announcing 100 million pounds aid for refugee camps in Syria, Turkey, Jordan and the Lebanon, said accepting more people was not the simple answer to the situation. He stressed that the UK had a “moral responsibility” to help those displaced by the Syrian war.
This may be Europe’s biggest migration crisis since World War II, but it is nothing compared to the challenges facing neighbouring countries in the Middle East countries of Jordan and Lebanon, as well as, Turkey, where Aylan was washed ashore. There are millions of people seeking shelter, in countries that have far fewer resources to help them cope.
Also, Europe has to deal with its ultra nationalist movements. Since the Syrian refugee crisis came to the fore, they have been vehemently opposing calls for European nations to accommodate these victims. They claim that the Syrians will undoubtedly swell the population of Muslims in Europe because they will cling to their religion and populate wherever they found themselves. The alleged refusal of the Arab League member countries to either accommodate or take in the fleeing Syrians is sometimes perceived as a strategy aimed at achieving the Islamisation of Europe faster.
But the human catastrophe is increasingly becoming an issue the Europeans cannot to their skin heads, racists and ultra nationalists like the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP), National Front in France, True Finns in Finland and Austria, Jobbik in Hungary, LDPR in Russia, the Golden Dawn in Greece, or the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
Rescue operations on the Mediterranean remains ongoing on a 24-hour basis, more than 300,000 migrants have crossed so far this year out of which at least 2,600 have died. On Wednesday, Norwegian ship, Siem Pilot, saved more than 800 people in Libyan waters, including 11 pregnant women and more than 30 children. Four people were found dead. On the same day, more than 1,200 migrants were rescued in Greek waters; the most in one day in some time, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
But while the reality is such that people moving from their home countries to seek better life in other countries, will continue forever, what makes people embark on unsafe expedition by land and sea to seek a better life in foreign lands is the challenge the world may have to resolve. Whether minors or adults, migrants are often fleeing extreme poverty, instability or conflict in their home countries. Of particular interest to Africa is the economy, many others are strife. Despite posting the world’s highest growth rates, the economic situation on the continent has largely remained non-inclusive.
For the Syrians and other Arab countries it has been more of political instability which has engulfed most the Arab nations, starting on January 4, 2011 with the self-immolation of the 26 year old Tunisian Mohammed Bouazizi and the subsequent Arab springs, actively supported by Europe. A situation, which has prompted the feeling that it is pay back time for Europe.
Indeed, UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, called Europe’s migrant crisis a reflection of deeper travails elsewhere and cited the Syrian war as an example, saying that conflict had “just been manifested on a roadside in the heart of Europe.” The conflict in Syria continues to be the biggest driver of the migration.
Of the 350, 000 that have tried the Mediterranean route this year, the largest contingent are Syrians, 38 percent according to the International Migration Organisation. Afghans, Yemenis, Pakistanis, Kosovo and Africans make up the number.
However, the number of arrivals to Europe, particularly Italy, becomes even more worrisome with the increase in the percentage of unaccompanied minors. The largest proportion of children arriving alone come from Eritrea, Somalia, as well as, Nigeria, having often spent months travelling to Libya before getting on a boat.
The Syrian civil war is a big source of the crisis facing Europe. The conflict has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced more than eight million in over four years. Most of the refugees have fled to neighbouring countries, particularly Lebanon (1.2 million), but are now, increasingly, desperate to reach European shores.
Italy’s appeals for greater help began to be heard at the EU level, months after the country’s dedicated sea rescue mission, Mare Nostrum, came to an end for lack of European support.
The turnaround has seen countries such as the UK sending ships to perform rescue operations, despite recently refusing to fund the Italian mission –– which saved about 100,000 lives last year –– by claiming the Italian effort acted as a pull factor to migrants.
Such dangerous conditions endured by migrants at the hands of smugglers have become a common narrative among migrants arriving on European shores. By the time of their arrival they had often run out of food and water before being rescued.
In what has become a near-daily routine, especially on the Italian island, migrants are given medical assistance, photographed and identified before being transferred to immigration centres.
Out at sea, commercial vessels are among those directed by the Rome coordination centre to perform rescue operations. Although European ships also patrol the waters, as part of the EU’s Triton mission, the Italian navy still carries the weight of the migration crisis.
The scale of the mass movement of desperate people seems to have taken everyone by surprise. The EU rules designed to cope with migration flows have failed to stand up to the challenge. The Dublin regulation, for example, which requires asylum seekers to make their applications in the first EU member state they reach, appears to play one country off against another in taking responsibility.
But the rhetoric that contemporary migrant in Europe is from Africa is not true, going by UN figures as 50 percent of current migrants are from two non-African countries: Syria (38 percent) and Afghanistan (12 percent). When migrants from Pakistan, Iraq and Iran are added into the equation, it becomes clear that the number of African migrants is significantly less than half.
The UN under-secretary general and executive director of the Economic Community for Africa (ECA), Mr. Carlos Lopes, pointed out that major recipient of modern migrants, the Italians, must have forgotten they created entire nations such as Argentina and Uruguay. “The British do not necessarily relate Australia, New Zealand or the Spanish and Portuguese most of South America to their making through migration. When referring to Indochina the Chinese must have only a vague idea why that region carries their name. Americans will find it bad taste to mention part of the current US was bought from Mexico. The list is vast.
“Still one continent, in recent history has never been associated with migration to colonise or profit from other regions richness, Africa. If anything, Africa is rather known for suffering from slavery, plundering of its natural resources and unfair international treatment.”
According to him, African countries receive a lot more migrants than the continent exports abroad. In fact, the bulk of Africans looking for opportunities outside their countries go to another African countries. Less than two million seek a destination abroad every year, which is a tiny number in relation to migrant stocks, particularly in Europe. Eritrea may, however, be Africa’s major export of migrants going into Europe through the Central Mediterranean, with Nigeria following closely on its heels.
Paying their ways through is not also particularly easy for the migrants. Many sell their meager belongings or raise loans to embark on these dangerous journeys. But Syrian migrants are thought of as relatively wealthy, with smugglers demanding significantly larger fees for their