Europe’s migrant crisis: All you wanted to know

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August 19, 2015 11:09 AM

Record numbers of migrants from countries like Syria and Eritrea are trying to reach Europe, despite the risks from perilous sea crossings and the inability of countries to provide adequate humanitarian assistance. Here are the latest developments Tuesday:

Record numbers of migrants from countries like Syria and Eritrea are trying to reach Europe, despite the risks from perilous sea crossings and the inability of countries to provide adequate humanitarian assistance. Here are the latest developments Tuesday:

TURKEY: Six migrants drowned off Turkey’s coast while trying to reach islands in Greece. Five bodies were unloaded in the western tourist town of Bodrum, and a rescue team later found a baby. About 20 others were rescued and taken to a harbor in the nearby town of Turgutreis.

In another rescue operation, a Doctors Without Borders medical team heading for the Greek island of Leros happened upon a boat carrying 40 migrants. It picked them up and took them to the Greek island of Kos.

It is unclear how many migrants may have died between Bodrum and Kos, which is only four kilometers (2.5 miles) from Turkey at its closest point, making it one of the shortest routes across the Aegean Sea.

HUMANITARIAN AID: The German Red Cross says it will distribute hygiene kits to migrants to try to prevent disease from spreading as they arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos.

The aid organization said that starting in mid-September it will hand out more than 19,000 kits, including a two-month supply of toothpaste, soap, laundry detergent, baby-care products and diapers.

The head of the German Red Cross, Rudolf Seiters, called the situation on Lesbos desolate and said many of the migrants are weakened, have to sleep on the floor and have no access to medical care.

SMUGGLERS: In Italy, authorities detained eight suspected smugglers in the deaths of 49 migrants trapped inside the hold of an overcrowded fishing vessel over the weekend.

Prosecutor Michelangelo Patane said in Catania that a Moroccan was the captain of the ship, while the other seven – four Libyans, two Moroccans and a Syrian minor – used violence to keep order. Patane said the air below deck wasn’t breathable because of the number of people and engine fumes.

Smugglers hit those trying to get out with belts and kicked them in the head, ”preventing them from having some chance of survival.”

BORDER HUNTERS: In Hungary, several thousand police officers will be deployed to the southern border with Serbia in a new effort to stem the rising flow of migrants. The prime minister’s chief of staff, Janos Lazar, says that the ”border hunters” would step up efforts against the ”increasingly aggressive migrants arriving with more resolute demands.”

Around 130,000 migrants have reached Hungary this year, already about three times as many as in 2014. Most request asylum but quickly leave for richer EU countries like Germany.

Lazar said planned penal code amendments would soon make illegal border crossings and cutting through the 4-meter (13-foot) high fence being built on the 174-kilometer (109-mile) border with Serbia punishable by several years in prison.

GREECE: A spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency called on Greek authorities to show greater leadership and appoint someone to coordinate the aid operation on some of its smaller islands.

”It’s very difficult for us to start working on the ground if we don’t have somebody who is in charge,” UNHCR spokesman William Spindler told reporters in Geneva.

Later Tuesday, Greek authorities said they are planning to use a ferry currently docked at the island of Kos to transport up to 2,500 migrants to a northern port.

The Greek Merchant Marine Ministry said the Eleftherios Venizelos is expected to leave Kos by Wednesday morning to travel to Thessaloniki. The ferry, which has served as a temporary migrant screening center, has about 1,700 people on board and will pick up hundreds more from other islands on the way.

STATISTICS: Greece’s coast guard rescued 576 migrants in 23 search-and-rescue operations off the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Agathonisi and Kos in a 24-hour period. The U.N. refugee agency reported that the number of refugees and migrants arriving in Greece by sea this year is now more than 158,450, including over 50,000 people in July alone.

That monthly number is greater than the 43,500 who arrived in Greece for all of 2014, it said. Italy, meanwhile, said Saturday that 103,000 migrants have been rescued and brought to its shores this year.

In all, the U.N. says about 264,500 people have crossed the sea this year, trying to reach Europe. That compares to 219,000 for all of 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration. IOM estimates almost 2,350 people have died this year in those sea journeys.

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