Millions of people across the world have been displaced by war, repression and economic turmoil. The current migrant crisis — the worst since World War II — has captured headlines with stories of the struggles, desperation and tragic casualties.
People are leaving countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Kosovo, Eritrea and especially Syria. Because of nearly five years of civil war and the chaos of ISIS, some almost 12 million Syrians have been displaced. About 4 million of them have left the country, looking to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and now countries in Europe for shelter.
More than 340,000 migrants have arrived at the borders of European Union nations so far this year.
The journey to Europe is extremely difficult, costly and dangerous. Casualties aren’t uncommon. An estimated 2,600 have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Still, families make the trek knowing the risk, believing resettlement in a developed country abroad to be their only option.
The EU is divided on how to handle the influx of migrants at the doorsteps of its member nations. And not everyone is welcoming the new arrivals with open arms.
The EU has a rule called the Dublin Regulation. This requires refugees seeking asylum to apply in the EU country where they first arrived. For most, that has been either Greece or Italy, and the thousands of arrivals are overwhelming the resources in these countries with already rocky economies.
Germany suspended the Dublin Regulation and anticipates receiving 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers this year.
For many, the goal is to reach affluent countries in western Europe such as Germany. But that requires traveling through countries that are not happy about the thousands of people entering their borders. Hungary built a razor-wire fence to attempt to keep people out.
The problem is further complicated by confusion over the distinction between a refugee and a migrant. The term migrant is often used to refer to the mass quantities of people arriving in Europe overall, but there is a legal difference between the two terms. Refugees have been forced out of their homes because of fear of persecution or war. Refugees can apply for asylum and are afforded certain protections by law. But people who have left their countries to seek economic opportunities elsewhere are considered migrants and need to go through traditional immigration processes.
The EU called for an emergency meeting on Sept. 14to address the crisis. Germany, France and Sweden are encouraging other member states to share the refugee burden with mandatory quotas. But other countries object, wanting to maintain control over how many refugees they can accept.
The United States has let in 1,500 Syrian refugees since the Syrian civil war began. However, the White House has recently said it is looking to increase that number to at least 10,000 in 2016.
While a clear path to help these millions on the move may be months or years away, when it comes to Europe and the migrant crisis, at least after watching this video you can say, “Now I get it.”