A new exodus of Syrians is fueling the extraordinary flow of migrants and refugees to Europe as Syria’s four-year-old war becomes the driving force behind the greatest migration of people to the continent since World War II.
Syrians account for half of the 381,000 refugees and migrants who have sought asylum in Europe so far this year, which is in turn almost a doubling of the number in 2014 — making Syrians the main component of the influx.
The continued surge through Europe prompted Hungary, Austria and Slovakia to tighten border controls Monday, a day after Germany projected that in excess of a million people could arrive by year’s end and began to impose restrictions on those entering the country.
How many more Syrians could be on the way is impossible to know, but as the flow continues, their number is rising. In July, the latest month for which figures are available, 78 percent of those who washed up on inflatable dinghies on the beaches of Greece were Syrian, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Some were already among the 4 million refugees who have sought sanctuary in neighboring countries, but many also are coming directly from Syria, constituting what Melissa Fleming of the UNHCR called a “new exodus” from the ravaged country. They are bypassing the refugee camps and heading straight for Europe, as the fallout from what President Barack Obama once called “someone else’s civil war” spills far beyond Syria’s borders.
More are on the way. Syrians are piled up on the streets of the Turkish port city of Izmir waiting for a place on one of the flimsy boats that will ferry them across the sea to Greece, and they say they have friends and family following behind.
“Everyone I know is leaving,” said Mohammed, 30, who climbed three mountains to make his way across the Turkish border from the city of Aleppo with his pregnant wife, under fire from Turkish border guards. “It is as though all of Syria is emptying.”
Analysts say it was inevitable it would come to this, that Syrians would eventually tire of waiting for a war of such exceptional brutality to end. At least 250,000 have been killed in four ferocious years of fighting, by chemical weapons, ballistic missiles and barrel bombings by government warplanes that are the biggest single killer of civilians, according to human rights groups.
Men on both sides die in …Read More