As refugees continue to enter European countries, they meet both hostility and welcome. Lately, the welcome seems to be wearing thin. And the international concern that met the photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi has faded away, with 2016 photos of dead children now getting little attention.
“Although the world does not seem to be as focused on the issue, the number of deaths keeps on increasing. The International Organization for Migration said that until Friday, 218 people had drowned this month in the Aegean Sea as they tried to reach Greek islands. A Human Rights Watch official said that January has been the “deadliest month so far” for the perilous journey between Greece and Turkey.”
The EU approved three billion Euros to help Turkey cope with refugees. Turkey has about 3 million refugees.
Anti-immigrant, sentiment surged after reports of New Year’s Eve attacks on women in Cologne, Germany, which were followed by similar reports from Finland and Sweden. In Sweden, men dressed in black rampaged through the streets on January 29. From Al Jazeera:
“Swedish police have made three arrests following reports that scores of black-clad men targeted foreigners as they rampaged through central Stockholm on Friday.
“Local media reported on Saturday that up to 100 men had attacked people and handed out leaflets threatening violence against foreigners, highlighting growing tensions in a country of 10 million people that received 163,000 asylum seekers last year.”
Vigilantes also inspired fear in Finland. The Washington Post reports from suburban Tampere:
“On a frigid night in this industrial city, three local men pulled up to a curb in a beat-up van sporting the stars and bars of the American Confederacy (because, they said, they just liked the look of it). Soon, they joined a dozen other beefy vigilantes gathering on a sidewalk for their first patrol to keep “our women” safe.
“These are the Soldiers of Odin, a new far-right citizens group sprouting chapters across Finland.”
Germany, which admitted more than a million immigrants in 2015, is moving to slow the pace, saying that refugees who have been admitted cannot bring in family members for two years. A right-wing German politician went further, saying that, “if necessary,” German police should shoot people trying to enter the country illegally.
Sweden granted asylum to many but said it will deport 60-80,000 unsuccessful applicants for asylum. Refugee camps and centers are overfilled.
“Are refugees still welcome in Denmark? Many Danes say yes, despite a new, controversial law requiring police to seize cash and other valuables from asylum seekers arriving in the Nordic country. There’s widespread criticism in Denmark of the new law, even as many Danes are nervous about the rising number of asylum seekers.”
The BBC has a graphic summary of where asylum seekers are coming from and going to in Europe.