More than 120,000 migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers* have arrived in Europe so far this year, according to the International Organization of Migration. Last year, countries like Germany put out a welcome mat to people fleeing violence in their home countries. But it now appears that more than ten European Union nations are clamping down entry to these new arrivals.
On Monday, Hungary’s national election board endorsed a referendum question to reject setting a quota plan for 160,000 migrants and refugees arriving through Greece and Italy. Finnish police recently repatriated 103 Iraqi asylum-seekers to Baghdad for the first time since the influx earlier in February. And Afghans in particular are facing more scrutiny as they make their way through European Union nations.
In response, the European Union is preparing to earmark $765 million over the next three years, mainly allocating humanitarian aid for Greece.
But tensions are high as the refugee crisis shows no sign of abating. Refugees and local European Union residents increasingly clashed in February.
1. German mobs shouted at a bus full of families to “go home”: Refugees who arrived on a bus in the Germany town of Clausnitz, Saxony were met by a mob chanting “go home” and “we are the people.” Anti-refugee sentiment has been particularly strong in Germany, after more than 1,000 drunk and aggressive young men allegedly of North African or Arab descent attacked women on New Year’s Eve in Cologne.
2. France began clearing its largest migrant camp: Demolition squads began dismantling huts at the Calais “jungle” camps on Monday after a judge upheld an expulsion order. The government has encouraged migrants and refugees to relocate to reception centers made from converted shipping containers, but some fear that they “will be required to claim asylum in France and give up hope of travelling to Britain,” BBC reported. The publication also reported that riot police fired tear gas after migrants threw rocks inside the camp, with 12 shacks set on fire. Demolition of the entire camp will likely continue though it’s unlikely that there are enough spaces in the converted containers for the entire population.
3. Police on the Macedonian-Greece border fired tear gas at children: Austria and Balkan states have begun to tighten their limits on border entries, causing a bottleneck at the Macedonian-Greece border. As many 70,000 are expected to be “trapped” at the border by the end of March. When more than 7,000 people recently became stranded at a border fence between Macedonia and Greece, many tried to storm through a razor barrier. Police in Macedonia fired tear gas and stun grenades at about 300 migrants, some of whom are children, who “raced towards a railway track between the two countries,” Agence France-Presse reported.
It’s likely that many more migrants and refugees will continue to flee war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Syria, where a two-week truce was negotiated between Syrian rebels and the government late last week. Some Syrian residents believe that the truce is a “trick,” allowing the government to control more territory, CNN reported.
The journey away from these countries is often a deadly one. So far this year, 418 migrant and refugees lost their lives in the Mediterranean, mainly along the Eastern Mediterranean route between Turkey and Greece.
*Asylum seekers and refugees are generally asking for a form of humanitarian relief that allows them to legally stay in a country that they want to settle. Asylum seekers seek this relief after they arrive at a destination country, while refugees generally apply for relief before they leave their home countries.