Europe's Refugee Crisis: 6 months on from the death of Aylan Kurdi, where are we now?
18th February 2016
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The image of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach was probably the most striking media photograph of last year, and arguably the jolt that was needed to alter the collective conscious on what has come to be known as the “refugee crisis.” The picture painted what words had failed to: a small life lost; a child who in another context could have been asleep and safe - but wasn’t. It gave a human face to a movement of people that was previously easy to view as a critical mass; impossible to emotionally engage with. The beginning of March marks six months since the events in Bodrum, so now seems like a good time to reflect on Europe’s continued handling of the crisis – and ask what the consequences of the initial surge of responsibility have been. According to the Missing Migrant Project, part of the International Organization for Migration, 1,046,599 migrants (including asylum seekers) passed into Europe in 2015. The overall number is those who have arrived via land or sea so far in 2016 is 84,406. 78,333 of these have entered Greece alone. Over 8,500 arrived in the week up to 19th February. 410 are known to have drowned, or are missing. Another million are expected to cross the Aegean once the weather improves. The numbers are understandably hard to visualise. It’s an ancient journey that refugees are currently taking: from Greece to Macedonia, up the Vardar river valley; to Serbia and eventually to Berlin. It’s a route, says Macedonia’s foreign minister Nikola Poposki, “used by the Romans, Ottomans and Crusaders”. It’s unfortunate that Greece, in the midst of a decade of financial woe, is the point at which those fleeing from the Middle East naturally land. Now, the European Commission has handed the country a list of ways that it needs to improve the way it deals with the influx of people. Meanwhile, Macedonia might be about to close its border to Middle Eastern refugees – as it already has to those from North Africa - potentially blocking off a key route out of Greece. Further north, there are fears that Serbia might do the same thing. No straightforward solutions have yet been presented, and fears that the chance to reach Western Europe might soon vanish are palpable. According to UNICEF, “You can feel the fear” at the Macedonian border. A summit Brussels on the evening of 18th February, according to EU officials, looked unlikely to provide answers. And what of the refugees when – and if – they arrive on western shores?
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