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29 September 2016

A “White Helmet” rescue worker surveys the aftermath of an airstrike in the Shaar district of Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Karam Al Masri / CNN 2016.

Migration Out of Middle East Appears Unlikely to Ease

United States - With the abrupt collapse of a cease-fire in Syria last week, international migration officials expect no letup in a wave of migration out of the Middle East that has set off the worst global migrant crisis in 70 years, writes Masood Farivar for Voice of America.

The five-year conflict in Syria has displaced half its population, driving more than 6 million Syrians out of the country. Though more than 1 million Syrians have escaped to Europe, the majority live in camps in neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

The September 12 cease-fire, brokered by the U.S. and Russia, had raised expectations that the break in fighting could pave the way for peace, eventually allowing millions of Syrians living in temporary shelters in the region to return home instead of seeking asylum in Europe.

But as the truce crumbled in the wake of a U.S. airstrike on Syrian troops and Syrian government bombings of a U.N. aid convoy, hopes that a recent drop in migration to Europe could be extended were all but quashed.

"I'd turn the question around by saying, 'Have the drivers, have the root causes of forced movement — have they changed?' " said William Lacey Swing, Director General of the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM). "And the answer is, clearly, given the state right now of the Syrian cease-fire, clearly the root causes have not changed."

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A boat carrying nearly 600 migrants capsizes in the Mediterranean in May 2016. 562 were rescued and 5 died. Photo: Italian Navy.

“They Were Scattered Everywhere, All Drowning.” How a Lampedusa Optician Became a Hero of the Migrant Crisis

Italy - “I promised I would never tell this story,” said the optician, rubbing his hands up and down the thighs of his jeans, writes BBC reporter  Emma Jane Kirby for the Sunday Telegraph.

He stared into my eyes for a long moment, as if trying to judge whether I could take what he’s about to say. “Because, it’s not a fairy tale.”

It was May 2015 when I first met Carmine Menna, the optician of Lampedusa and we met in his shop on the little island’s main high street. He was serving a customer who had broken her glasses and although he knew very well why I had come to see him – he could see the microphone in my bag and he recognised my Italian fixer Alessandra – he did not mention the word “interview” until his client had left the shop and closed the door firmly behind her. 

You see, Carmine doesn’t give interviews. He is an extremely private and discreet man and what happened to him on October 3rd 2013 made him into something of a local hero; a role he rejects emphatically. He’s also, however, an extremely courteous man and he was visibly embarrassed that we had come such a long way to meet him. 

I explained that our listeners and viewers were becoming numbed by the migration crisis, that, saturated with images of over laden boats, and by the testimonies of desperate survivors, all the stories had begun to sound the same to them and they were just switching off. He winced. I told him I was trying to refocus the public’s attention on the tragedy by making a series of radio programmes talking to ordinary Italians who had been affected by it. He was quiet for a while and then invited us to sit down.

This year is already on track to be the deadliest on record in the Mediterranean Sea. 3,211 people have been reported dead or missing attempting to cross the strip between Libya and Lampedusa that has become a watery graveyard. Carmine cannot understand why there have been even worse tragedies than the one he witnessed.  Why, every time he switches on the TV, there seems to be another shipwreck with an even greater loss of life. That, he says, is when the memories and nightmares come flooding back.

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Migration in the News
  • Reuters reported that Egyptian authorities have arrested the owner and crew of a boat that capsized and sank on September 21 carrying hundreds of migrants. At least 202 people died and 169 were rescued.

  • TRT World reported that rescue workers continue to recover bodies of Egyptian, Sudanese, Eritrean and Somali migrants from last week’s shipwreck off Egypt.

  • reported that a week after the sinking, Egypt has called a parliamentary emergency meeting to toughen penalties against people smugglers.

  • reported on York University, City University of London and IOM’s “Mediterranean Missing” project, which analyzes the best practices and critical issues in the identification of the remains of migrants who have died at sea.

  • Thomson Reuters Foundation reported on the rise in the number of Nigerian women trafficked into sex slavery in Italy through violence and their belief in 'juju' magic.

  • reported that six Ivorian children trafficked to Niger have been returned home by UNICEF and IOM.

  • SABC reported on efforts by Zimbabwe to encourage its diaspora to contribute to the development of the country.

  • An IRIN Op-Ed examined the outcome for migrants of the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants and possible human rights implications of IOM’s membership of the UN system.

Trending on the Internet

  • Graphism featured researcher David Bihanic’s interactive mapping of migration flows and deadly crossings of the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe. 

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