This year has seen more refugees from the Middle East and Africa entering Europe than ever before, as a variety of factors continue to drive them from their home countries. In general, these refugees are escaping war, poverty, and persecution in order to begin better lives in Europe, even if the treacherous journey there often puts their lives at risk. Now, leaders of the European Union are under pressure to formulate plans to mitigate the situation, but in order to do so, they'll have to consider two things: Which countries are the migrant refugees are coming from? And what's going on in these countries that's driving people out?
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 350,000 refugees have been recorded at the EU's borders so far this year (January to August), compared to 280,000 recorded for all of 2014. This surge in the number of refugees is a sobering reflection of the unstable and hostile conditions in their home countries that are prompting them to risk their lives to seek asylum in countries such as Hungary, Germany, and Italy.
According to the IOM, more than 3,000 people died while traveling through the Mediterranean passage in the first nine months of last year, and this year's journeys have proven to be no less perilous. On Thursday, The Independent published a haunting photo of a young Syrian boy laying on the shore of a Turkish beach who had drowned while fleeing with his family. It is perhaps the single most poignant representation of the refugees' desperation to flee.
So just where are they fleeing from exactly? According to The Independent's stats gathered from January to March, the breakdown of first-time asylum applicants by citizenship is as follows, from most to least (BBC reports that the highest number of refugees is coming from Syria):
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Ivory Coast
Clearly, these refugees are coming from very varied parts of the world, with differing governments and situations, but there are some common factors between them. Refugees from Western Africa and Kosovo alike are escaping extreme poverty. Those who flee Iraq, Syria, and Somalia are running from militant extremists who plague their war-torn countries. Almost every refugee, no matter where they come from, is escaping repression in some form or other.
And as for where they're applying for asylum, The Independent's breaks it down as follows:
- United Kingdom
- Czech Republic
The mounting refugee crisis has EU leaders scrambling to decide the right course of action. On Wednesday, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron told BBC News:
We are taking action across the board... the most important thing is to try to bring peace and stability to that part of the world. I don't think there is an answer that can be achieved simply by taking more and more refugees.