THE SYRIAN CONFLICT REACHES EUROPE'S DOORSTEP
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 The chaotic scenes of people lined up against the fences and begging/demanding to be let in have been replaced by images of migrants huddled around fires and each other against the winter cold.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.