Record numbers of desperate economic migrants and refugees are making their way into the European Union whose member states are squabbling on how to manage the influx.
The migrants and refugees arrive via the Mediterranean Sea and Southeast Europe from areas such as Africa and the Middle East. Those who choose to travel via the sea often do so in unsafe vessels provided by human traffickers.
It is the biggest humanitarian crisis that the EU has had to face since the end of the Second World War.
Most of them want to go Austria and Germany, some aim to go further north to Scandinavia.
See some facts and figures further below but first here’s a broad overview of the crisis from the BBC:
Refugees or migrants?
It is a mixture of both. According to a July 2015 UNHCR estimate, 62 percent of the people trying to get into the EU are from war zones such as Syria and Afghanistan which makes them refugees of war.
The UNHCR says there is an estimated 19.5 million refugees worldwide. One in every four of these people are Syrian.
Those fleeing sub-Saharan Africa – most usually young men – are more likely to be escaping abject poverty and dysfunctional countries. Large numbers are also from Pakistan. Many are dreaming of a better life and better employment and education opportunities. This makes them migrants.
But given the complexities, people can be often both, i.e. if someone is from a war zone area but they’re picky on what country they want to go to, favoring one that offers them improved lifestyle opportunities.
How many refugees and migrants?
This year alone more than 300,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe this year. Around 200,000 of those have landed in Greece and a further 110,000 in Italy, according to the UNHCR.
Germany is expected to take in 800,000 refugees and migrants from around the world this year, more than the rest of the EU combined reports the ABC.
Hungary’s leader Viktor Orban has blamed Germany for opening its doors to hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers from across the EU, in so doing he says it has encouraged greater numbers to come reports the Financial Times.
For a news report on the refugees trying to pass through Hungry see here:
Deaths in the thousands
Around 2,500 refugees and migrants are estimated to have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea this year says the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Last year that figure was 3,500 people. The issue was highlighted this week with heart rendering images of a dead child who had washed up on Turkish beach.
Looking after refugees in the Middle East
Turkey currently hosts the largest number of refugees with 1.59 million and nearby Lebanon has 1.2 million Syrian refugees says Forbes quoting UN figures. Lebanon, it should be noted, only has a total population of around 4.5 million. The UNHCR says that Jordan has looking after 600,000 refugees.
The UNHCR says an estimated four million Syrians have fled the brutal civil war that has been fought in their country since 2011.
Why don’t rich Arab Persian Gulf states take in refugees from Syria or elsewhere?
Simply, the Gulf states dislike granting refugee status to anyone, even fellow Muslims. Not an issue that gains much media attention.
“There are some Syrians who have found refuge in the Gulf, especially in Qatar, but they would all generally be on some kind of temporary visas,” said Jane Kinninmont, deputy head of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House in London according to Radio Free Europe.
“The Gulf countries are not signatories to the international conventions on refugee rights that Western countries and indeed most world countries have signed up to,” she added.
The hashtag #ShameOnArabRulers has been trending in the past week, condemning the Gulf countries for not assisting Syrian refugees.
See an AJ+video below about that: