Everything you need to know: The Refugee Crisis

Cartoon saying the boy doesn't care what wars are going on, but that the world is responsible for his death. Cartoon by Rafat al-Khateeb

Warning: This article addresses a tragic but important topic, and will have content that may be distressing. Discretion is advised.

If you follow the news, even if you don’t, there’s a high chance you’ve heard about the current crisis sweeping through Europe: the massive influx of migrants travelling by every means imaginable to reach Europe. In the last few days, a horrific photograph of a drowned 3-year-old boy washed up on the Turkish shore captured the attention of the world. This article will explain everything you need to know about the ‘Refugee Crisis’.

Here’s the heartbreaking photos of Aylan, 3, who’s body was washed up onto a Turkish beach yesterday. His brother Galip, 5, in the photo on the left with him also died, along with their mother. One of over 2,600 who have drowned in the Mediterranean so far this year.

So, who are the people trying to come to Europe?

There are a mixture of people coming to Europe. Many of them are coming from Syria, which is currently experiencing an incredibly complex conflict (which would take a whole other article to explain). Others are coming from other war zones such as Eritrea and northern Iraq. Some are also coming from Africa – particularly from Ghana and Senegal, as well as from Egypt and Libya where the governments are struggling to keep control.

How are the refugees travelling? 

There have been some heartbreaking stories of how desperate migrants have tried to come to Europe. Most recently, 71 migrants were found in a refrigerated truck in Austria; all were dead. Before that, there were 26 in a truck where 3 children were dehydrated. One man even hid behind the engine of a car. Many have been travelling across the Mediterranean sea to Italy and Greece, in unsturdy boats run by illegal smugglers – the people trafficking refugees across the world at outrageous costs. However these boats are often overloaded, and many have sunk or capsized – as Aylan’s boat did.

A map of the main routes migrants are taking to reach Europe. Photo: BBC
A map of the main routes migrants are taking to reach Europe. Photo: BBC

Why are they so desperate to come to Europe? 

Many are looking for a better life. Many in Syria are facing threats from the government or from the terrorist group ISIS. Meanwhile in Africa, there are a variety of reasons – from turbulent governments to dodging mandatory conscription. Generally, the migrants are fuelled by a lack of security in their home countries and a need for a better life. In 2014 there were 250,000 migrants into Europe. From January to August of 2015, there have been 350,000 migrants.

Why can’t they just get into Europe? 

It’s a difficult situation, with a lot of politics involved. Many countries don’t want to let just anyone into their country – that was an issue before this crisis became so dramatic. Germany, Sweden and Italy have been the most accepting European countries. Switzerland is not far behind. However, many others are not so welcoming. Today, David Cameron announced that the UK would fulfil it’s ‘moral responsibilities’ – as a reaction to the photo of the 3-year-old Syrian boy.

As of the 18th of August countries, from around the world had pledged to take 104,410 Syrian refugees as part of the UNHCR’s resettlement program. The UK has pledged to take 216 people as their part of this.

Relief as a family reach Kos, Greece. Photo: Daniel Etter
Relief as a family reach Kos, Greece. Photo: Daniel Etter

In addition, Turkey is being particularly harsh to migrants trying to use the Budapest railways to get to Europe. The authorities in Turkey are constantly having to break up protests or drag people from the railways as they try to stop trains from leaving.

Another complication is the Dublin Regulation which states that refugees should seek asylum in the first EU country they reach. However with almost all arriving through Italy and Greece this would bring the country to a standstill, so many have moved north in search of more welcoming countries such as Germany which expects to have 800,000 asylum applications by the end of the year.

There are difficulties beyond the politics, though. Many Europeans aren’t ready to accept hundreds of thousands of migrants into their countries. In addition, there are some fears over terrorism as governments may not know who is coming into their country – and if they’re telling the truth about their identity. However it should be noted that this is often sensationalised by the media.

Indian artist Sudarsan Pattnaik created a sand sculpture of the image of Aylan Kurdi's body. Photo: Getty
Indian artist Sudarsan Pattnaik created a sand sculpture of the image of Aylan Kurdi’s body. Photo: Getty

What can we do? 

You can see suggestions of what you can do to help here.

In the UK, a petition has reached 300,000 signatures and which means it must be considered in Parliament, so hopefully there’ll be some change there. People are finally acting to try to help with the situation.

I hope that this has helped to inform you – although it’s a tough subject to read. It’s important to be informed, so you can make your own decision about what you think should be done. Thanks for reading!