November 2015: The Mediterranean
Syria is in the midst of civil war. More than three million Syrian refugees, many of them educated professionals, have fled their country with nothing but their children and a backpack. Two million have landed in Turkey and tens of thousands in small boats continually cross the Mediterranean to Greece where they hope to continue their journey deeper into Europe. The Telegraph reported Oct. 23 that in six days more than 50,000 people were recorded arriving in the Greek islands.1 The Greek Coast Guard, stationed along these islands, is overwhelmed. Sometimes up to 30 boats a night arrive in the waters of Lesbos with only a few coast guard vessels available to meet them. Crews do the best they can.
The single greatest factor determining whether thousands of migrants live or die is the number and availability of search and rescue vessels patrolling the waters. The Mediterranean is rough this time of year and it is common for the tightly packed, overloaded boats to sink and capsize. So far in 2015 more than 3,000 migrants have drowned in the waters between North Africa and Europe. In April, 800 died in one mass sinking off the Libyan coast. Not all the migrants are Syrian. From wherever conflict, tyranny or poverty reigns, migrants will come, and according to a report from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in June, worldwide displacement is at its highest level in recorded history.2
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