Aug 27 2014

Immigrants Flock to Europe Fleeing Persecution, War, and Poverty

If you thought migration from Central America and Mexico into the United States was a unique problem, it turns out Europe is dealing with a similar situation. Ever-increasing numbers of migrants from countries like Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are making perilous journeys over the Mediterranean Sea to arrive at the borders of Southern European nations like Greece, Italy, Spain, and Malta. Thousands of people have died attempting to cross. In fact this year alone, nearly 2,000 people from various African and Middle Eastern countries have drowned, the majority of them in the last three months alone. The situation is so dire that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) strongly urged European governments yesterday to take action.

The numbers are grim. More than 120,000 people have landed in Europe since January, the vast majority of them fleeing persecution, war, violence, and poverty. Tens of thousands of them are minors, under the age of 18. And the numbers of those who are migrating as well as those who are dying, are increasing sharply. Over the weekend alone, about 300 people perished off the coast of Libya which is a favored northern-most boarding point for migrants from all over the Middle East and Africa. Libya’s own growing instability has fostered a smuggling operation and also led to many Libyans to fleeing violence.

Meanwhile Italy, which was shocked last year when more than 360 migrants drowned at once off the coast of the island of Lampedusa, has launched an ambitious operation called Mare Nostrum, which means Our Sea, to use its Navy to rescue migrants on boats. But wealthier Northern European states, which are often the final destinations for migrants, have done little to nothing to address the situation.

GUEST: Niurka Pineiro, Senior Regional Media and Communication Officer and Spokesperson for the Western Hemisphere of the International Organization for Migration, based in their Washington DC office.

Visit www.iom.int for more information.

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