TIME europe

These 5 Facts Explain Europe’s Deadly Migrants Crisis

Ship with large number of undocumented migrants runs aground at Rhodes
Loukas Mastis—EPA Illegal migrants arriving at Zefyros beach at Rhodes island, Greece, April 20, 2015.

Over 1,500 migrants have died trying to reach Europe—and the numbers are only likely to increase unless the EU takes real action

On April 19, more than 600 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean when their boat capsized on its way from Africa to Italy. On April 12, about 400 people died in a separate shipwreck. So far in 2015, 1,600 migrants have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean, and authorities fear that the number will surge as the weather warms. These five stats explain the rising tide of migration problems for Europe and for the desperate migrants of Africa and the Middle East.

1. Political Refugees Fleeing to Europe

EU member states received 216,300 applications for asylum last year. A large number of these asylum seekers are fleeing from Syria (civil war), Eritrea (dictatorship) and Mali (another civil war). Many of them are officially recognized as “refugees” by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a status that affords certain legal protections. But navigating the red tape takes time. Rather than waiting for a reluctant host country to take them in, many of these refugees entrust their fates to smugglers. As we’ve seen time and again, this can lead to tragic results.

(UNHCR, VOX)

2. Trouble on the Rise

75% of migrant deaths worldwide occur in the Mediterranean Sea. Europe has already seen a 43% increase in migrants through the first two months of 2015, and peak migration season (typically May through September) hasn’t yet begun. In 2014, the top countries of origin of people attempting to enter Europe by sea were Syria (67,000), Eritrea (34,000), Afghanistan (13,000) and Mali (10,000). Currently, an estimated 600,000 people are waiting in Libya to emigrate, according to Vox. These people represent three years worth of migration to Europe at the present rate.

(Guardian, BBC, Economist, VOX)

3. The Insufficient European Response

Even for those migrants who safely reach European shores, their troubles are far from over. The EU requires that asylum petitions be processed by the country in which migrants first arrive. As a result, southern countries such as Malta, Italy and Greece have found themselves overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of incoming migrants, while richer northern countries receive relatively few. Until last year, Italy had a program in place to find and rescue migrant ships, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Italy had to spend $9.7 million a month to fund the program, and so turned to the rest of Europe for help. The United Kingdom and others made it clear that they would not offer support for rescue operations, for fear doing so would encourage more people to attempt to make the dangerous sea crossing. This past fall, the EU’s border patrol agency Frontex took over responsibility from Italian authorities—with a budget that is about a seventh of what Italy was spending on its own.

(FiveThirtyEight, VOX, Economist)

4. Turkey Stands Apart

While Italy and the rest of the EU struggle, neighboring Turkey has been busy hosting 1.6 million displaced Syrians within its borders, or about half the people who have fled that country since the fighting began there nearly four years ago. Taking in refugees is not cheap; the total cost to Turkey is estimated to be $4.5 billion and rising. Turkey has introduced new regulations to give the Syrians a more robust legal status in the country, which includes access to basic services like health care and education. But Istanbul has stopped short of granting these migrants official refugee status, which would provide them with additional social services.

(New York Times, World Bulletin)

5. Rise in Xenophobia

The cost of taking in migrants is not measured only in dollars or euros. As Europe’s economy has struggled to rebound, anti-immigrant attitudes have risen across the continent. In a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2014, a median of 55% of Europeans surveyed wanted to limit immigration. The percentages were much higher in struggling countries like Greece (86%) and Italy (80%). The rise in xenophobia has propelled new far-right parties to the political forefront, and older parties like Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France are looking to play a much larger role in their countries’ politics in years to come. As long as high-unemployment persists in the Euro region, rising xenophobia in EU countries will be an important driver in shaping EU migrant policy.

(New York Times, Pew Research Center)

TIME Switzerland

This Country Has the World’s Happiest People

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Dale Reubin—Getty Images/Cultura RF View of mountains and lakeside village, Switzerland

Life expectancy, social connections, personal freedom and the economy all play a role in happiness

The happiest people in the world live in Switzerland, a new study found.

The third World Happiness Report, released by the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network on Thursday, ranked 158 countries based on Gallup surveys from 2012-15 and analyzed the key factors contributing to happiness levels.

Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada were the top five happiest countries, while the West African nation of Togo was the least happy.

The report aims to provide policymakers around the world with new metrics that place a higher emphasis on subjective well-being. While income appeared to play a significant role in boosting happiness—the GDP per capita is 25 times higher in the 10 happiest countries than in the 10 least happy—it was far from the only factor. Life expectancy, social connections, personal freedom, generosity and corruption levels also helped explain the happiness scores, according to the report.

The U.S., for example, ranked 15th in the world, one below Mexico and three below Costa Rica, where per capita GDP is roughly a fifth of that in the U.S.

“This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being,” Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, said in a statement. “It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health.”

But sharp economic changes in a country can play a role in people’s happiness, the report found. Greece, where the global recession triggered prolonged economic turmoil, saw its happiness levels fall the most since 2005-07, compared to 125 other countries where data was available.

Still, the report warned policymakers against overemphasizing income levels.

“When countries pursue GDP in a lopsided manner, forgetting about social and environmental objectives, the results can be adverse for human well-being,” the report said. “Many countries in recent years have achieved economic growth at the cost of the sharply rising inequalities of income and grave damage to the natural environment.”

TIME Google

Take a Google Tour of Nelson Mandela’s Island Prison

Google

See the place Mandela was held for nearly two decades

All online tourists are welcome: Google has launched a virtual tour of the island prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years.

As part of Google’s tour of Robben Island prison colony off the coast of Cape Town, online visitors can roam the cells and explore guard towers from a computer or smartphone, Mashable reports.

Robben Island, which has served over time as a leper colony, a mental hospital, and a maximum security prison built to hold civil dissidents like Mandela, is now a United Nations World Heritage site. Mandela spent 18 years there for opposing Apartheid.

Google also features historical exhibits like the theater where Abraham Lincoln was shot, Aushwitz concentration camp, and the site of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

[Mashable]

TIME France

France Has Foiled Five Terrorist Attacks as Security Tightens

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls makes a statement following the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 22, 2015.
Christian Liewig—Corbis French Prime Minister Manuel Valls makes a statement following the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 22, 2015.

This week French police arrested a man, who is believed to have planned to attack churches in Paris, after he shot himself by accident

French authorities have halted five terrorist attacks in recent months, the country’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Thursday.

The latest was an attack on churches in Villejuif outside Paris, which stalled when an Algerian man was arrested on Saturday after apparently shooting himself accidentally in the leg.

“The threat has never been so high,” Valls told France Inter radio. “We have never had to face this kind of terrorism in our history.”

Following January’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket in which 17 people died, France is stepping up security. More than 1,500 French citizens or residents have been tied to “terror networks,” including 442 believed to be in Syria.

[BBC]

TIME Behind the Photos

The Story Behind the Photos of a Migrant’s Brutal Killing in South Africa

“I don't have any regrets about taking the pictures.”

Twenty-eight seconds. James Oatway checked the time stamps of the series of pictures he captured of an attack that took place in South Africa’s Alexandra Township last weekend.

It took only 28 seconds for a group of “neighborhood thugs,” the photographer says, to fatally injure Emmanuel Sithole, a Mozambican migrant who ran a small business in Alexandra. Sithole was the seventh person to die in a wave of anti-foreigner violence sparked by controversial remarks made by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini in which he suggested that foreigners were taking South Africans’ jobs and that they should “pack their belongings and go back to their countries.

The unrest echoes the brutal xenophobic attacks of 2008, which led to the death of 60 foreigners around Johannesburg.

In the early hours of Saturday, Oatway, a nine-year veteran photojournalist of South Africa’s Sunday Times, teamed up with reporter Beauregard Tromp to monitor the looting that had happened overnight in and around the township. The streets were calm, Oatway recalls, although traces of the previous night’s violence were still evident rubbish and burned debris still littered the streets.

After photographing in a looted foreign-owned shop, Oatway saw Sithole walking along a street when several men surrounded him. Using wrenches and knives, the men started beating and stabbing Sithole.

“They were intent on killing him,” Oatway tells TIME. “You could tell by the expression on their faces. They look so angry. They weren’t going to stop.”

At first, the attackers weren’t aware of the photographer’s presence. But then one man alerted them and the group ran off.

Oatway and Tromp rushed Sithole to a nearby clinic but they couldn’t find the doctor who was supposed to be on duty. Oatway learned later that this particular doctor was also a foreigner; he had stayed away from work out of fear of becoming a victim himself.

The photographer and reporter brought Sithole to another hospital but it was too late. The man succumbed to a stab wound that had pierced his heart.

The Sunday Times ran one of Oatway’s shocking photographs on its front page, stirring controversy in a country reeling with the realization that such violence can no longer be attributed to the legacy of Apartheid rule and that there are fundamental problems within society that must be addressed.

Unexpectedly, both the photographer and the Sunday Times became the target of criticism, with some accusing the photographer of failing to help Sithole, and the newspaper of callously publishing a graphic image on its front page.

“I don’t have any regrets about taking the pictures,” Oatway tells TIME. “I don’t have any regrets that the picture was on the front page. I really don’t think I could have intervened successfully in that attack. I think my presence there distracted them and did discourage them. If I hadn’t been there, there would have really been some brutal damages and [they] probably [would have] killed him right there, in a far more brutal manner.”

While Oatway’s photographs are gruesome, the photographer believes they are necessary. “I understand that a lot of people have this view of photographers being vultures, preying on other people’s misfortune,” he says. “But why not direct the anger at the people committing the crime, the people brutally murdering Emmanuel, instead of me just happened to be there and recorded it?”

Following their publication, the photographs led to the arrest of all four men involved in Sithole’s murder.

Oatway remains tormented by the fact that he was not able to bring Sithole to a doctor in time. “Ten minutes would have made a difference,” he says. “That’s playing on my nerves. That’s my main regret.”

Read next: South Africa Deploys Its Army to Halt the Killings of Foreigners

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME europe

E.U. Leaders Face Calls to Take Swift Action on Migrants

Italian Navy Brings 545 Migrants Ashore In Salerno
Ivan Romano—Getty Images Migrants wait to disembark from the Italian Navy vessel Chimera in the harbor of Salerno on April 22, 2015

E.U. leaders will examine a plan to respond to the Mediterranean crisis, after more than 10,000 migrants were plucked from seas between Italy and Libya in a week

(BRUSSELS) — European Union leaders gathering for an extraordinary summit are facing calls from all sides to take emergency action to save lives in the Mediterranean, where hundreds of migrants are missing and feared drowned in recent days.

The leaders will examine a plan to respond to the crisis, after more than 10,000 migrants were plucked from seas between Italy and Libya in a week, and are widely expected to approve swift action.

EU President Donald Tusk urged the leaders from the 28 nations “to agree on very practical measures,” including “strengthening search-and-rescue possibilities, by fighting the smugglers and by discouraging their victims from putting their life at risk, while reinforcing solidarity.”

EU officials say the leaders will commit to doubling the size of the European border agency effort in the Mediterranean, but those operations are designed for monitoring migrant movements, not necessarily saving lives.

A senior EU official said they are also expected to give the green light for a pilot project to resettle around 5,000 refugees. The official, who is involved in preparing Thursday’s summit in Brussels, is not permitted to speak publicly.

That resettlement plan would amount to about half of those who have arrived in just the last week and a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands likely to arrive this year.

Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders want a multinational rescue effort launched to help the thousands fleeing conflict and poverty from places like Syria, Eritrea and Somalia.

“The stakes are very high. The number of hours, literally, that it takes to take action will make the difference between life and death,” Iverna McGowan, Acting Director of Amnesty’s European Institutions Office told The Associated Press.

According to the UN’s refugee agency, 219,000 refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean last year, and at least 3,500 died trying. Perhaps 1,000 have already died this month alone.

Critics blame the increased deaths on the phasing-out of Italy’s big rescue operation in 2013-14, Mare Nostrum, which worked close to the coast of Libya — the biggest migrant transit route.

A smaller EU mission dubbed Triton was left to fill the vacuum, but it has no mandate for rescue work, although it does respond to distress calls under international obligations and has saved thousands of lives since its launch late last year.

Some lawmakers are concerned that the leaders may stump up rescue assets while the media spotlight is on their summit, but that commitments to solidarity could quickly fade away, as they have in the past.

“I fear that what will happen … is that they will try to water down a few of the points and the actual reason why they are meeting — to urgently seek solutions to what is happening today — will not be the focus of the deal,” Roberta Metsola, the leading EU parliament lawmaker on migration, told the AP.

Currently, five of the 28 member states — Italy, Greece, Malta, Germany and Sweden — are handling almost 70 percent of the migrants coming in.

A key part of the action plan is to crack down on the people-smugglers operating off Libya and destroy their boats, to stop people sneaking into Europe.

The EU’s executive commission has floated the idea of a civil-military mission to do the job, but it faces many legal hurdles and has proved controversial ahead of the summit.

“I will ask for military action, because you cannot go to the Libyan coast with border guards,” said German EU lawmaker Monika Hohlmeier.

In contrast, Doctors Without Borders said that “fighting smuggling without offering alternatives will create more suffering. If there are no meaningful alternatives offered to people to reach Europe safely, people will take even more dangerous routes.”

TIME India

India Bans al-Jazeera for 5 Days for Showing ‘Incorrect’ Maps of Kashmir

Protesters Demand Freedom For Jailed Journalists In Cairo
Adam Berry—Getty Images A logo is seen at the Al Jazeera bureau in Berlin on Feb. 27, 2014

Three wars have been fought between India and Pakistan over the historically contentious territory

Al-Jazeera English has had its broadcasts in India suspended for five days after the Indian government ruled that the Qatar-based international news channel had previously shown maps that misrepresented the disputed border region of Kashmir.

A blue screen reading, “As instructed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, this channel will not be available,” greeted al-Jazeera’s Indian viewers on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

An official told AFP the ban was ordered earlier this month after the channel was found to have used maps showing sections of Kashmir as part of neighboring Pakistan and China. “The ban has been imposed for five days and it was done on instructions of an inter-ministerial committee, who took cognizance of an incorrect map of India in which the channel showed parts of Kashmir in Pakistan and China,” he said.

The depiction of Kashmir, a historically contentious territory claimed by both India and Pakistan, is a highly sensitive issue for the oft-feuding South Asian neighbors.

The Surveyor General of India, to whom the matter was subsequently referred, found that the channel also failed to show the Indian islands of Andaman and Lakshadweep, the Times of India reported.

Al-Jazeera English issued a statement in response to the ban, condemning what it deemed “censorship” by the New Delhi government.

According to the statement, the suspension of its broadcast concerns maps of Pakistan used in 2013 and 2014 that did not demarcate the part of Kashmir under Pakistani control (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or PoK) as a separate territory. Once notified by Indian authorities, the channel said it ensured all maps from Sept. 22, 2014, onward used dotted lines and unique shading for the disputed portions.

“This ban is a disproportionate response to an issue that we fixed promptly after it was pointed out,” said Al Antsey, Managing Director of al-Jazeera English. “It needlessly deprives Indian viewers of our global news and programs.”

Representatives from the channel have reportedly reached out to India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to resolve the issue.

TIME Bizarre

A Stinking 11-Ton Megalith of Congealed Fat Has Been Removed From a London Sewer

It’s called a fatberg and it’s terrifying

Londoners have been advised to stop flushing cooking oil and pre-moistened towelettes down sinks after authorities successfully removed a mammoth 11-ton piece of congealed fat, caked with compacted wet wipes, from one of the city’s sewers.

The “fatberg” was reportedly the size of one of the British capital’s famed double-decker buses and inflicted more than a half-million dollars of damage to the sewer pipes under West London’s plush Chelsea neighborhood.

“The original sewer has been so badly abused by fat being chucked down the plughole we’ve had to opt for the time-consuming and disruptive option of replacing many meters of pipe,” Stephen Hunt, a maintenance supervisor at Thames Water charged with overseeing the removal of fatberg, told the Guardian.

West London is home to a high-concentration of restaurants and food-related enterprises that produce approximately 32 million to 44 million liters of used cooking oil, much of which is then flushed down the drains, annually.

“I’d urge people to consider what lurks beneath their feet,” pleaded Hunt. “When it comes to getting rid of fat, ‘bin it – don’t block it.’”

The same, naturally, goes for wet wipes.

[Guardian]

TIME Britian

Chairman of U.K.’s Ruling Party Denies Editing His Wiki Entry and Those of Rivals

Grant Shapps speech
Hannah McKay — AP Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps gives a speech on free trade at the Institute of Directors in London on Feb. 12, 2015

He blames a “smear campaign” ahead of elections next month

U.K. Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps was in an all-out denial mode on Wednesday, after a story broke in the Guardian this week claiming he had edited his own Wikipedia page and those of rival politicians.

The British daily reported that Wikipedia had blocked an account that it alleged was being used by Shapps “or someone acting on his behalf.”

“It is the most bonkers story I’ve seen in this election campaign so far,” Shapps told the BBC on Wednesday.

During the interview with the broadcaster, the politician claimed that his diary proved that he was “elsewhere” when the edits by Wiki user Contribsx were made.

He then went on label the accusations that he was tied to Contribsx as a possible “Labour/Guardian smear campaign” ahead of general elections next month.

The chairman was caught editing his Wikipedia page without revealing his identity in 2012, but claims to have learned from the experience.

“It turns out you should never correct your Wikipedia page,” Shapps told the BBC. “And that’s why I’ve never gone near it since.”

TIME Australia

Australia’s Immigration Minister Has Been Accused of ‘Torturing’ a Refugee Girl

Keeping the child in detention is tantamount to torture, legislator argues

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has been accused of mentally torturing a 5-year-old girl by keeping her in a detention center for asylum seekers on the Pacific island of Nauru.

The child has been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of her experiences in detention and has reportedly begun showing sexualized behavior, according to a Save the Children report cited by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Currently, the girl is being held with her parents in Darwin, where her father is receiving medical treatment, but she will be moved back to Nauru once her father recovers.

“The minister is torturing this little child and I don’t use those words lightly,” Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, a lawmaker for the Green Party, wrote to the minister. “We know that the detention has caused these issues for her. Her mental health has deteriorated.”

Some 900 asylum seekers live in squalid conditions in detention on the island nation of Nauru, where they wait for their claims of asylum to be processed. Reports of physical and sexual abuse are common among the women and children housed there.

In a reply, Dutton called Hanson-Young’s remarks “repugnant” and claimed that “1,200 people died at sea while the Greens were in government with Labor.”

Lawyer John Lawrence is planning action in the Federal Court on behalf of the family to prevent them from being sent back to Nauru.

[ABC]

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