The tragic deaths of migrants fleeing by boat from Syria continue to make headlines every day. On Wednesday September 2, more migrants were reportedly drowned while trying to reach Greece from Turkey through the Aegean Sea. Meanwhile, thousands managed to land on Greek shores.
On Wednesday, two boats carrying asylum seekers sank off the coast of Turkey, killing 11 people. Turkish media report that three children were among the drowned. Five other people are also missing. The migrants are predominantly Syrians. The boat left Akyarlar Port in Bodrum, Turkey and was destined for the Greek island of Kos. A number of the passengers managed to swim to the Turkish shore.
The route of this exodus goes through Greece, Macedonia and Serbia to Hungary and Austria. The chief destination for Syrian asylum seekers is Germany. Asylum seekers who reach Greek shores face daunting conditions as chaos rules on many islands in the eastern Aegean Sea. Hundreds of migrants sleep outdoors and receive no aid whatsoever because local governments have no budget to deal with them. In Leros, Kos, Lesbos, Kalymnos, Samos, Agathonisi the situation is worse than elsewhere. In Lesbos, hundreds of asylum seekers staged protests in the main port of Mitilini, calling for more ships to move them from the island.
Local media reported on Wednesday that hundreds of migrants have arrived in the Eastern Greek islands from Turkey via the Aegean Sea. Many come in simple plastic boats which can easily capsize.
The Turkish government reports that it has received two million refugees. Only a small portion has been sheltered in 25 refugee camps. The others are left to their own devices and have no shelter or support.
In the last two days, the Greek port of Piraeus received two groups of asylum seekers in two vessels, one carrying 2,500 people and another 1,700. They were being shipped over from Lesbos, where there is no more room for extra people.
Meanwhile, thousands of migrants are being held under the burning sun at the border of Greece and Macedonia. To prevent chaos, police are moving them across the border in groups of 50. Once the migrants cross, they head for the railroads to get themselves to Serbia. Women and children are being given precedence, according to Greek Television reports.
Thousands of migrants are waiting in Budapest to receive visas for travel to Germany and Austria. They have been staging demonstrations each day to push the Hungarian government to issue their permits. Many families with children are among the demonstrators chanting: “Freedom! Freedom!” Most of them are from Syria.
Four and half years into the Syrian conflict, half of Syrians have been driven away from their homes. The United Nations reports that one fifth of the Syrian population has been driven out of the country. Given the dire conditions of refugee camps in neighbouring countries, and since the people have gradually lost hope of ever returning to their homes, many have decided to take the long journey to Europe.
The UN report shows that 7.6 million people have been displaced in Syria and the number of Syrians driven out of their country has reached nearly four million and continues to climb.
Before the start of the Syrian conflict in March of 2011, Syria had a population of 23 million. Since then, 240,000 people have been killed in Syria.