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11 Refugees, Including 5 Children, Fleeing NATO-Russian War on the Middle East, Drown Off the Greek Island of Farmakonissi

December 23, 2015

Editor's Note:

About ten millions of Syrians and Iraqis have fled their cities due to the continuous NATO-Russian air strikes. Some of them were displaced to other communities inside their homeland, lucky others managed to take refuge in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.

The luckiest million of them managed to reach Europe and headed to the only country which has welcomed them, Germany. To do so, they have to cross the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece. This is where many of them drowned in their crowded small boats, like in the case of today's story.



Middle Eastern refugees crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece, 2015



The Latest: 11 migrants drown off Turkey, 7 others rescued

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP)

The latest on the continuing flow of refugees and other migrants into Europe.

Turkish media say 11 migrants including three children crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece have drowned after their boat capsized, and seven others were rescued by the Turkish coast guard.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said the Turkish coast guard spotted the refugees Tuesday during a routine patrol off the coast of southwest Aydin province. The DHA agency said the seven survivors were Syrians and the boat was heading to the Greek island of Samos.

DHA broadcast images of men, women and children waiting next to a line of blue body bags as rescuers in boats and a helicopter continued to search for survivors. It was not immediately clear how many people were on the boat that sank.

With just days left in 2015, the Geneva-based International Organization for Migrants says more than 1 million asylum-seekers have entered Europe as of Monday. Almost all came by sea, while 3,692 drowned in the attempt.

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov has sharply criticized the European Union's policy on migration as the continent faces its biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

In his annual speech before Parliament Tuesday, Ivanov accused the EU of having a dysfunctional system for distributing refugees among member states. He also criticized it for allowing some countries not to register migrants and refugees, and for allowing member states to take unilateral decisions on the issue.

Ivanov said more than 700,000 people have passed through Macedonia so far this year, and that his country had been left to cope with the crisis alone.

View gallery A salvaged dinghy, together with three life jackets, two adults' size and a child's, hangs s 

"The migrant and refugee crisis reminds us that we are left alone," Ivanov said, adding that Macedonia "bears the consequences of the failure of the union."


Boat sinks off Greek island, 11 drowned

ATHENS, Dec. 23, 2015 (Xinhua) --

Eleven people, including five children, drowned during the capsizing of a boat carrying refugees and migrants from Turkey to the Greek island of Farmakonissi, the Greek Coast Guard said Wednesday.

Fifteen people were rescued while two were missing, according to local authorities.

About 750,000 refugees and migrants have reached Greece since the beginning of 2015, with most of them continuing their journey to central and northern Europe, according to figures of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration. More than 200 have drowned in the Aegean and over 90,000 have been rescued.

Unprecedented 1 million refugees, migrants flee to Europe in 2015, UN says

Dec. 22, 2015 (Xinhua) --

The number of refugees and migrants fleeing to Europe in 2015 has topped an unprecedented 1 million, and at least 3,600 drowned or went missing trying to make the crossing, the UN said on Tuesday, calling for much more to be done to receive and aid those uprooted by persecution, conflict and poverty.

"Persecution, conflict and poverty have driven a staggering 1 million people to seek safety in Europe in 2015," Farhan Haq, the deputy UN spokesman, told reporters here, citing estimates by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

As of Monday, some 972,500 people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea, while more than 34,000 people have crossed from Turkey into Bulgaria and Greece by land, Haq said at a daily news briefing here.

"The number of people displaced by war and conflict is the highest in Western and Central Europe since the Balkan crises of the 1990s," when several conflicts broke out in the former Yugoslavia, he said.

"One in every two of those crossing the Mediterranean this year -- half a million people -- were Syrians escaping war," Haq said. "Afghans accounted for 20 percent and Iraqis for seven percent."

According to UN refugee agency reports, the Syrian civil war, which has been raging since March 2011, has led to a massive displacement that has also, to a large extent, contributed to the huge influx of refugees in the Middle East and Europe.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said that as anti-foreigner sentiments escalate in some quarters, it is important to recognize the positive contributions that refugees and migrants make to the societies in which they live and also honour core European values: protecting lives, upholding human rights and promoting tolerance and diversity.

More than 800,000 refugees and migrants came via the Aegean Sea from Turkey into Greece, accounting for 80 percent of those arriving irregularly in Europe by sea, while the number of those crossing from North Africa into Italy dropped slightly, from 170,000 in 2014 to around 150,000 in 2015.

Over the year, the number of people crossing the Mediterranean increased steadily from around 5,500 in January to a monthly peak in October of more than 221,000, said the UN agencies.

After an initial chaotic reaction which resulted in tens of thousands of people moving from Greece through the Western Balkans and northwards, and finding themselves blocked at various borders, a more coordinated European response is beginning to take shape.

The UNHCR launched an emergency response to complement European efforts, with more than 600 emergency staff and resources deployed to 20 different locations to provide life-saving aid and protection, advocating for human rights and access to asylum, particularly for refugees with specific needs, such as unaccompanied children and women-headed households.

But much more needs to be done to reinforce required reception capacity at points of entry and allow for the humane and effective accommodation, aid, registration and screening to identify those in need of protection, those to be relocated to other countries within the European Union, and those who do not qualify for refugee protection for whom dignified return mechanisms have to be put in place, according to the UN refugee agency.

At the same time, the UNHCR continues to call for safe, regular ways for refugees to find safety through more resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes, more flexible visa arrangements, more private sponsorship programmes and other possibilities.

In mid-December, the UNHCR brought together governments and civil society to a two-day forum in Geneva to address the root causes of displacement as conflicts in the Middle East and Africa drive unprecedented numbers of people from their homes while floods and droughts wreak havoc with lives and livelihoods in Asia.

"Our world today is at a crossroads," Guterres said at the opening session of the forum. "From a humanitarian perspective, this juncture is defined by two 'mega-problems' in an environment of global insecurity."

"A seemingly uncontrollable multiplication of violent conflicts in an environment of global insecurity, and the pervasive and growing effects of natural hazards and climate change that are already shaping our present and will shape our future even more," he said, calling for an approach that looked beyond immediate emergency response to "what got us here in the first place."

At his year-end press conference on Dec. 16, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the World Humanitarian Summit will be held in May 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey, adding that the upcoming conference will be critical moment to address systemic funding problems, and agree on concrete steps to better prepare for and respond to crises.

"The world must invest more political energy in preventing and ending conflict, and in addressing violations of human rights -- our best early warning signs of greater trouble to follow," Ban said.

Meanwhile, Ban reviewed the situation of "epic flows" of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in 2015, saying that in the New Year "the world needs to aim for a new global compact on human mobility."

EU's refugee relocation progress "shameful": EP president

BRUSSELS, Dec. 17, 2015 (Xinhua) --

European Parliament president Martin Schulz on Thursday said the progress of the refugee relocation plan in the European Union (EU) was "shameful," as less than 200 people had actually been resettled.

Addressing the leaders from the 28 member states of the EU at a summit, Schulz criticized the countries for their slow actions in coping with the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

"As the refugee and migration crisis enters winter, we must ask ourselves, does Europe have a plan, or are we improvizing day by day?" he asked.

According to the implementation report released by the EU Presidency of Luxembourg ahead of the summit, only 14 EU countries had made available 3,346 places and only 184 people (as of Dec. 16) had been relocated out of a total of 160,000, a figure that EU leaders agreed to share under a permanent relocation mechanism in September.

"This figure is shameful and I call on all member states to shoulder their responsibility," Schulz said.

Talking about the functioning of the hotspots, he said, "the lack of progress on the ground is very frustrating and it's unacceptable that we are having the same discussion today as we were having in October."

In October, Frontex and the European Asylum Support office called for national experts, but only about half the number requested has been reached.

Furthermore, Schulz pleaded with European Parliament leaders to fulfill their funding pledges to help refugees.

The EU is planning to spend 9.2 billion euros (10.5 billion U.S. dollars) on the refugee crisis in 2015 and 2016.

Member states, for their part, are supposed to deliver 2.8 billion euros, in a breakdown of 500 million euros for the UNHCR, World Food Program and other relevant organizations, 500 million euros for the EU Regional Trust Fund for Syria, and the remaining 1.8 billion euros for the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.

However, a large number of EU member states still needed to match EU funding on the issue.

"Make the needed funds available. This step will save lives," Schulz called.

The president said the European Parliament was working on its own "comprehensive, long-term, approach" to refugee policy, and their first proposals would be presented on Jan. 18.

Editor: Mu Xuequan


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