THE SYR­IAN CON­FLICT REACHES EUROPE'S DOORSTEP

Qatar Today - - HOW THE WORLD CHANGED FOREVER IN 2015 -

The slow trickle of mi­grants drown­ing in the Mediter­ranean as they made their way across to Europe, soon snow­balled into news that nei­ther the con­ti­nent nor the rest of the world could ig­nore, es­pe­cially af­ter im­ages of a tod­dler's dead body was found on a Turk­ish beach. More than 750,000 mi­grants are es­ti­mated to have ar­rived by sea so far this year, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion, but ex­act num­bers are un­clear as some may have passed through bor­ders un­de­tected. Ger­many con­tin­ues to be the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for mi­grants and has re­ceived the high­est num­ber of new asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tions. The con­flict in Syria con­tin­ues to be by far the big­gest driver of the mi­gra­tion. But the on­go­ing violence in Afghanistan, abuses in Eritrea, as well as poverty in Kosovo are also lead­ing peo­ple to look for new lives else­where.

Ten­sions in the EU have been ris­ing be­cause of the dis­pro­por­tion­ate bur­den faced by some coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly Greece, Italy and Hun­gary where mi­grants have been ar­riv­ing by boat and over­land. In Septem­ber, EU min­is­ters voted by a ma­jor­ity to re­lo­cate 120,000 refugees EU-wide. Many coun­tries like Hun­gary, and fac­tions within many other states, op­posed the move, re­luc­tant to take in refugees in light of the grow­ing threat from vi­o­lent Is­lamists. Af­ter sev­eral years of border-free travel, sev­eral coun­tries erected walls in or­der to pre­vent mi­grants from cross­ing state lines il­le­gally and to en­sure that they fol­low pro­ce­dure and pro­to­col. The chaotic scenes of peo­ple lined up against the fences and beg­ging/de­mand­ing to be let in have been re­placed by im­ages of mi­grants hud­dled around fires and each other against the win­ter cold.

To­wards the end of the year, Tur­key and Euro­pean lead­ers struck a deal to try to con­trol the flow of mi­grants to Europe. Tur­key will re­ceive €3 bil­lion and po­lit­i­cal con­ces­sions in re­turn for clamp­ing down on its bor­ders and keep­ing refugees in the coun­try. Talks on Tur­key's ac­ces­sion to the Euro­pean Union will also be re­vived. Un­der the deal, Turk­ish cit­i­zens may be able to travel with­out visas in Europe's Schen­gen zone by Oc­to­ber 2016. A sup­porter of the right-wing pop­ulist Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) party dis­plays a plac­ard show­ing Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel dressed in a burqa dur­ing a demonstration against the Ger­man gov­ern­ment's asy­lum pol­icy or­ga­nized by the AfD party in Berlin. A pic­ture pro­vided by the Span­ish Min­istry of De­fence on Novem­ber 5 shows a boat with mi­grants off the coast of Libya viewed from an he­li­copter.

AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL

Slove­nian sol­diers set barbed wire fences on the Slove­nian-Croa­t­ian border. The coun­try found it­self on the Balkans route taken by thou­sands of mi­grants head­ing to north­ern Europe af­ter Hun­gary sealed its bor­ders with Croa­tia and Ser­bia.

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