According to Deutsche Welle, on Saturday about 6600 refugees crossed the border between Hungary and Austria. Of this number more than 2000 are expected to continue on to Germany. (Different estimates of the numbers involved are reported by other news outlets.)
Germany plans to process at least 450,000 asylum applications this year. Some are predicting 800,000.
Also on Saturday another thousand refugees arrived in Sicily by boat. In both Austria and Italy, most of the current refugees are from Iraq and Syria. Kurds from along the Syrian-Turkish border have been prominent in this most recent wave of migrants.
Fighting this weekend in Marea, Syria killed at least forty-seven, according to the BBC. Located between Aleppo and Turkey, mostly Kurdish and FSA rebels are contending with ISIS forces for control of an area the government of Turkey has identified as a potential “safe-zone” for those displaced by the Syrian wars.
Friday several news reports noted that due to budget shortfalls, food vouchers distributed to over 4 million registered refugees currently in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey will be reduced by roughly one-third. In an effort to raise additional funds, these drastic measures were originally announced by the World Food Program in July. The United States responded with an additional $65 million. But very few west of Ankara noticed.
Thursday at least thirty died when a boat carrying mostly Somali, Sudanese, and Nigerian migrants sank off Libya as it was attempting to cross into EU waters.
Early today (Sunday) the Irish patrol ship LÉ Niamh arrived at the port of Pozzallo in Sicily with 329 refugees and migrants on board after carrying out a rescue operation about 58km north of Tripoli, Libya on Saturday. A photo feature in today’s New York Times Magazine focuses on the perilous journey thousands are risking between North Africa and Southern Europe.
Television images of the stand-off in Budapest and a dead three-year-old in the Aegean are new and personalize the issues. But the issues are not new. Given violence, climate change, demographic patterns, stark economic differences, and socio-political turmoil the issues will grow old with all of us.
The map above was developed using 2010 data. But the general proportions have not changed much and are unlikely to shift appreciably in the next few years no matter what. Rather we are now experiencing — or at least seeing on a screen — the outcome of choices made at the turn of the century. Credible arguments can find reasonable cause well prior. Today’s crisis might have been mitigated — potentially avoided — by different decisions over the last three to fifteen years. This does not suppose alternate decisions would not have created other problems, but it is constructive to recognize how these problems did unfold.
Putting our North American situation in this global context might — though probably won’t — cool some incendiary attitudes regarding migration issues in this hemisphere.
We ought not, however, feel too cool and collected. There are burgeoning problems close to home. According to the United States Border Patrol, during FY2014 three-hundred-seven people died attempting to cross the Southwestern border of the United States. This was the lowest number of confirmed deaths since 2000. But the accumulating totals are certainly incomplete. The deserts of Southern Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas may be even less forgiving than the Mediterranean. Television cameras are seldom nearby.
And while many have — quite appropriately — been moved to sympathy and action by the plight of those fleeing toward Europe, how many noticed that in August there were 911 murders in El Salvador (population 6.34 million) for a total of over 4200 since January? This even exceeds the violence of next-door Honduras, until recently the planet’s murder capital.
This late-summer the United States has — quite appropriately — been concerned by a spike in urban homicides. To clarify the Central American context (and ours): Since the beginning of 2015 there have been 791 murders in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago (combined population: about 15 million). Less than the August total for El Salvador alone.
Given the context I am amazed we have not — yet — seen more outward migration.
It is an awkward moniker, but the core concept of Homeland Security that unfolded from September 11, 2001 was to not be so surprised again; to not allow our imagination to so fail again; to not be so stubbornly blind and self-involved again.
We’re evidently dealing with a chronic condition… and mostly failing to develop the better habits that could contribute to better health.
[To be self-critical: In 2011 and early 2012 here at HLSWatch I gave continuing attention to Syria. But then I chose to pull-back. This was an intellectual, ethical, and professional error. I struggle with my own bad habits.]
TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE: DW reports: “The dam set up by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been broken, and every two hours or so a train leaves Keleti station headed for Munich – each with a couple of hundred refugees.” Other refugees are on the move from Serbia toward Budapest. New arrivals continue to be reported at Kos, Lesbos and other Ionian cities.