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Europe’s Migrant Crisis: Record Numbers of Refugees and Deaths

Migrant tents under a bridge in Europe

Adrien admou52-cc

Migrants camp out under a bridge in Europe

John Burger - published on 08/29/15

The 71 who died inside a truck are only tip of the iceberg

Men, women and children suffocating inside a truck; North Africans drowning in the Mediterranean; families trudging across Serbia, only to find a razor-wire fence at the border with Hungary; Muslims being totally excluded from Slovakia; migrants rushing the “Chunnel” entrance at Calais, France, hoping desperately to make it to the other side of the English Channel.

Welcome to Europe in 2015, where levels of immigration are reaching numbers not seen since the tumultuous post-war days of 1945.

Already this year, almost 350,000 migrants have come to Europe, nearly three times the same period of last year. Nicholas M. Gallagher, writing at The American Interest, says:

Germany now believes that 800,0000 migrants will come to the country by the end of the year, a fourfold increase over previous years. 107,500 migrants are reported to have come to Europe in July alone, the first time that over 100,000 have landed in one month. And in Britain, net migration has hit 330,000—another record.

Most are apparently fleeing war-torn areas in the Middle East and Africa. Many are attempting to reach wealthier European countries such as Sweden, Germany and the UK. Some have been ripped off, and even left to die, by human smugglers.

That was the fate, apparently, of 71 migrants who were found inside a parked truck on Austria’s border with Hungary. The truck containing the victims’ corpses was towed to a warehouse Friday, where police and forensic experts prepared to take the partially decomposed bodies to Vienna for autopsies.

Across the continent, some 2,000-3,000 people are living in a refugee camp built on an old landfill near the French port of Calais. Known as “Jungle 2,” the camp contains Sudanese, Afghans, Syrians and Eritreans. Some have built their own places of worship, including four mosques and a church. Caritas France, known locally as Secours Catholique, reported:

Alongside the shelters, restaurants and cafes have also been built. “Creating collective places is very important,” said Vincent de Coninck, who leads the migration work for Secours Catholique.”There is a need for social life. That’s why they have built five mosques, a church, two schools and several restaurants. They are places of human encounter.”

To engender a sense of community among the various national groups, Caritas is facilitating the construction of a community building and the establishment of a council that will provide a sense of self-governance in the camp. According to Caritas:

The idea of the meetings is also to address broader policy issues that affect the migrants on their journey, such as on asylum applications in the EU so that those policies in turn can be changed.

They are the fortunate ones. Some 2,500 have died trying to make it into Europe by sea, including hundreds who perished on Thursday, when two boats capsized off the coast of Libya, according to the International Organization for Migration. Others die traversing Europe’s intracontinental borders. Judith Sunderland, associate director for the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, said the land route into the European Union trekked by migrants and asylum seekers has claimed “thousands of victims over the years.”

“In March, two Iraqi men died of hypothermia at the border between Bulgaria and Turkey,” she said. “In April, 14 Somalis and Afghans were killed by a high-speed train in Macedonia as they walked along the tracks. Last November, a 45-day-old baby died with his father on those same tracks.”

Sunderland argues that the EU should “expand safe and legal alternatives for people seeking entry,” especially those fleeing persecution and conflict.MULTIPAGE_SEPARATOR

“This means increasing refugee resettlement, facilitating access to family reunification, and developing programs for providing humanitarian visas,” she said. “It also requires EU governments to meet their legal obligations to provide access to asylum and humane conditions for those already present.”

Caritas Europa issued a statement on Friday saying that “the migrants are not a threat to the EU but our policies are a threat to them.”

Pope Francis has said that the Mediterranean should not become a “vast cemetery.”

Writing on a Georgetown University blog, Hope Zigterman, a research associate for the university’s Eurasia Program, compared the current European response to the migration crisis to the world’s response to migration leading up to World War II. “As Jews faced increasing pressure from the Third Reich, many attempted to emigrate—only to find the doors to the rest of the world closed,” Zigterman wrote. “In 1938, 32 countries had gathered at the French town of Évian-les-Baines at the behest of President Roosevelt to address the flow of refugees, but no country besides the Dominican Republic offered to increase their quotas of immigrants.”

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