November 2, 2015
By Cameron Beach, Glenbrook South
and Katie Karmin, North Shore Country Day
In Northern Africa and the Middle East, severe civil wars and major economic collapses are breeding instability: over 3 million people—many of them Syrian—continue to flee from their homes. Some of the refugees seek asylum in Europe, but the trip across the Mediterranean is oftentimes deadly. The migrants who do make it to Europe find the European Union (EU) struggling to make room for everyone. EU states have taken radically different stances on what to do with the influx of refugees; while Germany has pledged over €6 billion in aid and opened itself to hundreds of thousands of migrants, Hungary built a temporary wall on its Serbian border in an attempt to keep refugees out. Recently, the EU announced a redistribution plan that takes in 160,000 refugees continent-wide, after secretary of state John Kerry’s statement that the U.S. will welcome 10,000 more Syrian refugees this fiscal year.
Why is it happening?
The growth of the migrant population soared dramatically over the summer, primarily due to Syria’s civil war. An ongoing and brutal fight between the government, rebels, ISIS and other groups have traumatized Syrian society for the past four years. Syria’s government is weakening at a rapid pace and has begun to enlist members of the Syrian population to serve in the war. Civilians, afraid of being caught in the crossfire or drafted into the army, are fleeing. Access to Europe has become much easier, with refugees avoiding the original Mediterranean crossing in favor of a 20-minute route through Turkey and Greece. Due to this decrease in travel time, a ticket on a boat taking migrants to Europe has become much cheaper. Although conditions are still exceptionally dangerous, with the situation at home deteriorating, many migrants have no choice but to leave.
Why should I care?
The civil war in Syria has caused the deaths of an estimated 220,000 people, between 8,000 and 12,000 of which are children. Due to this violence, thousands of migrants have been fleeing across the Mediterranean, with more than 2,000 dying during passage in 2015. As of September, about 95 percent of the migrants and had found refuge in five main host countries: Lebonon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. With a predicted 800,000 migrants arriving in Germany this year alone, the EU’s pledge to take in 160,000 can’t resolve the situation—in fact, just 2.6 percent of Syrian refugees have been offered resettlement globally. However, dissent within the EU makes it difficult to raise immigration limits. Though President Obama’s administration recently upped the quota of Syrian refugees by 10,000, considering the number of people seeking asylum so far this year alone, the U.S. may need to take greater responsibility in the future.
For many years, refugees have been hiding illegally throughout Europe, attempting to restart their lives, but there’s an effort to help them do this legally. Though the EU’s redistribution plan is a step in the right direction, it serves only a temporary resolution. The United Nations predicts that thousands of refugees from across the globe will flood into Europe over next year—many more than their 160,000 quota can handle. Countries like Germany, which has a land area equivalent to California, will have difficulty housing thousands more people. It remains to be seen whether other European nations, the U.S. and the global community will voluntarily provide homes for refugees across the world.
March, 2011—Syrian Civil War begins
May—EU has first meeting on refugee crisis, agrees to accept 40,000 refugees
August—Hungary begins construction on a border fence to stop immigration
Sept. 2—Photo of dead three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi circulates the Internet
Sept, 20—U.S. announces it will take 10,000 more Syrian immigrants
Sept. 22—EU has second meeting on refugee crisis, agrees to distribute 160,000 around 23 member nations
“It is clear that the greatest tide of refugees and migrants is yet to come.”
—Donald Tusk, president of the European Council
“We’re facing the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II, and I think the United States has to do more. I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10,000 to 65,000 and begin immediately to put into place the mechanisms for vetting the people that we would take in.”
—Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state
“If we had not shown a friendly face, that’s not my country,”
—Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany
“Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims. This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity… There is no alternative, and we have no option but to defend our borders.”
—Viktor Orban, Hungarian prime minister
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